When we Christians pray we often include this; “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done. When we pray and ask for specific things we say “if it is Your will” bless me with such and such, or please heal my relative. But if we were honest we would probably say Lord please bless my will or, my will be done. This is my will Lord so please do what I want You to do. We don't come out and say it that way because we want to sound pious and we really do want God to answer our prayer but we really want what we want. We don’t want to upset Him so we say “if it is your will”. If He doesn’t answer our prayer right away or the way we really want Him to we will remind Him of the parable that Jesus told about the widow who kept asking to judge for justice for her from her adversary and he said, because she keeps asking over and over and she’s bugging me, I'm going to do this for her.
Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV)1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
The point of the parable is not that if we keep asking God for something over and over He’ll do it because we’re persistent, the purpose is that persistent prayer is the demonstration of faith in God who, may delay His answers but, will always act on behalf His people. That doesn’t mean you will get exactly what you want if you’re persistent.
If we don’t get what we ask God for, when we want it, and the way we want it, we can get frustrated and try to bargain with or make deals with God. “God if you do this I’ll do X” Lord if you get me out of this I’ll do this or I’ll never do that again”. We’ll find scriptures where it appears that God changed His mind and we’ll use that tactic when we pray, trying to get God to change His mind and then our will becomes His Will.
So here are my questions.
Can you bargain with God?
Sometimes when people pray under stress or duress, they will attempt to make a bargain with God: “If you do Lord this, then I will do this.”
Genesis 28:20-22 (NKJV)20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
Sounds like Jacob is bargaining doesn’t it? Actually it sounds kind of like the silly things we say when we pray for something that we’re not really sure is God’s will. If you’ll just do this Lord, I’ll do that.
Jacob didn’t need to do that because God had already promised him that he would bless him.
Genesis 28:12-15 (NKJV)12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you."
This happened when Jacob was on the run after stealing his brother’s blessing. When we read Jacob’s complete story we find out that God does bless him but, he had some hard lessons to learn as well.
Making promises to God in order to gain His favor isn't the thing to do. The blessings we receive are through God's grace, because He loves us, not because we talked Him into it by promising to do those things we should have been in the first place.
We can make vows to God but vows are not bargains. A vow is a promise that we make to God for a specific time, or a specific reason. Making a vow is completely up to us. God will do what He will do whether we make a vow or not. However a vow it’s sacred and God expects us to keep it
Numbers 30:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, "This is the thing which the LORD has commanded:2 If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. It’s never good to try to bargain with God, because in bargaining we get to set the parameters of the deal, not God. When God makes a covenant He sets the terms and they are always non-negotiable. God says, "This is what I will do for you; here is what you will do." There is no bargaining. (See Genesis 15 for God’s covenant with Abraham, Exodus 20 for His covenant with the nation of Israel, 2 Samuel 7:11-16 for His covenant with David, and Jeremiah 31:31-34 for His renewed covenant with the descendants of Abraham). What God has promised is not in doubt and what we are to do is not in doubt; whether or not we do it is another matter, but there’s no bargaining.
1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Notice that this scripture does not say, “if we ask anything according to His will”, (and we have a good feeling about it, God hears us). It does not say, “if we ask anything according to His will”, (and we are sincere, God hears us). It simply says “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us”. So, all the emotion, tears, feelings, and bargaining will NOT assure you that your prayers will be answered. It is not praying according to the Will of God. What we need to learn to do is pray with and by His Word. We need to study God’s Word and then when we have a need, find a scripture supporting our request. Then we need to pray the Word of God, pray WITH the Word of God, in the context that it was given by the Holy Spirit. Then there is no need to bargain because it won’t work anyway. God’s Will will be done.
Can you bargain with God? No!
In the next post in this series I’ll answer the question, “Can you change God’s mind?”
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.