Here I come again, running to God like a kid with a handful of sweaty quarters and a sweet tooth. Hit the knees.
"Father, Son, Holy Spirit. God, I need a (FILL IN BLANK.)"
Quarter. Quarter. Quarter. F4.
My prayer life is often a little heavy on prayers of petition and a little light on the other forms of prayer: blessing, thanksgiving, intercession, and praise. It's not that I disregard the other forms, it's just that when I'm navigating a particularly tough stretch of road, some of the other forms don't spontaneously manifest themselves within the situation as naturally as a good desperate priority 1 petition. Driving in fog. In the dark. Low on fuel. Crisis tends to draw one away from theological considerations, and more towards the basic, "Get me there, Lord. Just get me there. Hail Mary, full of grace . . ."
A side note about that rough stretch of road - it's a long stretch. One thing that I've learned is that one crisis always seems to replace another. We are always in need, totally dependant on our God. The Catechism teaches us "that every need can become the object of petition." Our needs tend to get our attention, like the arm waving school kid who sits right in front of the teacher. They also tend to mess with our subconscious thoughts, like the posse flanked bully stealthily punching bellies in the hallway between classes.
Needs. Needs. Needs. Love. Health. Forgiveness. Stature. Victory. Safety. Less fog. Missing car keys. A Snickers Bar.
I'm sure that God understands that the noisy demands of any given moment heavily influence the time we spend with him, steering us more towards being a friend in need than a friend indeed.
Fear. Pain. Loneliness. Sorrow. Anger. Envy. These are the hungers that drive our spiritual appetite. Our indicators that we have a need. We get a rumbly in the tumbly and it's time for something sweet. This isn't just metaphorical, either. Stress or heartache can easily create the need for an actual Kit Kat bar or a cold pint of Ben & Jerry's. So off we go, quarters in hand, to visit God's Vending Machine.
"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God." Phillipians 4:6
Paul's admonition to petition with confidence, with thanksgiving built into our asking, allows us to blend our asking prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving. Multitasking with a single prayer. Isn't God great? Hey. Now we're praising too.
Visualizing God's generous presence among us as a vending machine also gives image to a problem we can bring to our prayer requests. The rows of brightly wrapped candies illustrate our wants, not our needs. The object or condition we desire is our own personal answer to our problem, a definitive condition linked to our petition, telling God instead of asking. I believe that if God installed prayer petition snack machines in the back of our Churches, there would only be one button. It would read: A1 - Thy Will Be Done. God already knows what we need before we even press the button. (Matthew 6:8) We are experts at knowing THAT we need. Not always on WHAT we need.
Also, God's vending machine wouldn't require any quarters, and it would always be in perfect working order. If we push the button with chocolate on our mind and a carrot drops into the bin, we should count it all joy, and make like a hungry rabbit. If nothing were to drop, we shouldn't kick the machine, but thank God for the generous invitation to fast, or realize that the snack was delivered to someone even hungrier. Hey - now we're doing intercessory prayer!
Forgiveness. Joy. Healing. Conversion. Companionship. Love. Eternal life. Found keys. Clear roads. A Snickers Bar. Wow! There's some really nice stuff in that vending machine. Press the button.