Prayer, Plain and Simple

Bargaining with God: Personally, this is a pressing question for me at this moment, here and now. I need something very specific from God this week, something deeply personal and practical and yet completely out of my hands to deliver. I’m asking God to do what I cannot. So, will it help my case if I negotiate for terms? Here’s a bargaining story from the Bible relayed in “Six Prayers God Always Answers.”

Haggling with God isn’t a twenty-first century invention; it’s actually an ancient practice. The first recorded negotiation between man and God is found in the book of Genesis where God shows up, and it appears he does more listening than dealing.

God reveals a secret to Abraham; he is about to destroy the decadent cities, Sodom and Gomorra. At the time, Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family were living in Sodom. Abraham wants to secure their safety, so he begins to dicker with God. 

“If there are fifty righteous in the city, will you spare it?” Abraham begins. God concedes. “If there are fifty I will not destroy it.”

“How about forty-five?”

“I’ll spare it for forty-five,” God says.

“How about forty?”

“Yes, for forty.”

“Thirty? Twenty?”

“Yes, if there are as few as twenty righteous, I will spare Sodom.”   

“Can I speak once more? Can I press you further? How about ten?”

“For the sake of ten I will not destroy the city,” God concedes.

But there the bargaining stops. Abraham doesn’t push further. God will not relent. As it turns out, there are not ten righteous in Sodom. Only Lot, his wife, and two daughters escaped.

God knew there was only one man; Abraham did not. So did Abraham’s participation in the negotiation make a difference? Would Lot and his family have died without Abraham’s interference? Was the bargain somehow different because of Abraham’s dickering?

If not, what’s the point of dealing with God?

Can we change God’s mind? Did Abraham have such an intimate relationship with God, so close that God gave him the right to influence sovereignty? If so, can I also impose and negotiate this way for the favor of my own? What do you think?

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