Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

Will God cut a deal? I don’t know about you, but I often pray as though I believe he will. Is bargaining prayer legit? Will God swap favor of favor? Let’s explore this question this week. I’ll prime the pump with another bit from my book, “Six Prayers God Always Answers.” 

Does God negotiate?

Will he allow us to bargain with him?

Can we trade passing a test for a few weeks of church attendance, or get a warning instead of a speeding ticket if we donate to charity?

Is trade with God as lopsided as the rich man who wanted to take his wealth to heaven? He packed a suitcase of gold bricks and when St. Peter met him at the Pearly Gates, Peter took one look and said, “You brought pavement?”

This is the situation many find themselves in when they want to make a deal with God. What are his terms? What is the currency of heaven? Does he take cash or credit? Is he a willing negotiator or the ultimate haggler? Does he strike bargains or just strike them down? Making a deal with God often feels like a blind auction. We want to bid enough to win the prize, but we certainly don’t want to overbid.

Whether or not God is a shrewd bargainer, we act as if he is. Forget the images of heaven as a tranquil place of harps and soothing voices. From this side of eternity, heaven’s door sounds like the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange:

“God, if I can just close this deal I will build that orphanage in Africa.”

“Please God, if you send her back, this time I will go to counseling. I promise.”

“If you will let the pregnancy test be negative just this once, I’ll never even kiss him again!”

Most of us try bargaining with God. The offers drift skyward by the billions. Prayer is shrewd business. But are we to blame? God started it. “Ask and you will receive.” Then Jesus actually invites us to “Ask anything in my name. I will do it.”

Ask.

And, so we do…

… Is asking really enough?

We’re not sure. So instead of a straight-up request, many of our prayers arrive on God’s dispatch desk with an “if / then” rider attached. If we sweeten the pot, then maybe our offer will be accepted more quickly or completely. We are instinctive hagglers, and we can’t resist the temptation to stack our odds by strapping on a promise or two: 

“If you’ll keep my parents from finding out about Saturday night, I swear I’ll tell them the truth about the car…”

“If this tumor is benign, I’ll never look at another XXX-rated Web site again.”

“Oh, Jesus, save my baby and I will do whatever you ask!”

We hope that God, the first-rate car dealer we imagine him to be, might take our deal or at least counter with, “Throw in a week of fasting and a year-end gift to United Way, and you’ve got a deal!”

Honestly, do you ever bargain with God? What’s your story?

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