I drive to Costco every few days and fill up on unleaded gas for $1.76/gallon. I fill my tank and forget it. Gas doesn’t cross my mind again until the needle on my gauge drops or I see the warning light.
Sadly, I often approach God the same way.
I pray then forget about Him. I sing at church then criticize my neighbor. I ask God for guidance then rely on ‘common sense’ instead. I talk like a Christian but function like an atheist. I “fill up” on God like a gas station. But I fill up and forget it. I suspect I’m not alone.
The Gas Station God approach leads to an empty spiritual life.
Gas Station living is a clear sign we view God in the realm of tradition and duty, not a relationship. If I spend time with my wife on Sunday and forgot about her until next weekend, yeah… not good. That kind of relationship is headed for trouble, because there isn’t much of a relationship to speak of.
Always Before Me
But there is an alternative shared by David in the Psalms:
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
- Psalm 16:8
David didn’t fill up and forget.
He kept the Lord “always before” him. Day by day. Moment by moment. The relationship was real, and ours can be too.
A relationship with God is more like burning calories than a trip to the gas station – calories are always burning (although my body needs to get that message). A relationship with God is an ongoing reality, not an event.
That’s Nice… But What Do I Do?
“Desperate” and “Gas Station God” never coexist.
Jesus’s closest followers are desperate. “Forgive and help me,” is their go-to prayer, said throughout each day. It's a cry Jesus responds to because it refuses to be limited to a weekly fill up. Desperation leads to grace. And grace leads to love.
“A person who is forgiven little shows only little love,” is the contrasting option Jesus warns against. (Luke 7:47).
Lack of desperation is the express train to an unfulfilling Gas Station life.
So I invite you to pray a great four-letter-word today: H-E-L-P.
As we move toward Christmas, let this word be on your lips throughout your day. Like calories burning. In your car. On the zoom call. Before the big meeting. When you hear your kids wake up. Responding to the text. Seeing the daily news.
Most of all, embrace your brokenness and need for God as you pray.
It’s the prayer that leaves Gas Station God in the rearview mirror.