Home > Blog > Uncategorized > Trying to Appease God Part I: Striking a Bargain with God

As we look into the topic of how we try to appease God or to get what we want from Him, we must turn to the topic of prayer. Prayer is spending time conversing with God, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us that is essential to the Christian life.

Yet many approach prayer in the same way we approach negotiating with others. They approach God with eloquent arguments and speeches and, like a good bargainer, try to get God to do what they want while making the fewest concessions possible.

Some samples of this type of prayer are as such:

-God, if you would just help me to become rich, then I will give money to the church

-God if you would just get me out of this problem, then I will never gossip again

-God if you give me a beautiful wife/husband, then I’ll stop lusting after other women/men

-God if you just prove to me that you are real, then I’ll believe in you

 

The problem with this type of prayer is that it is typically taking something and making an idol out of that thing. It is trying to use prayer not as a means to draw near to God, but as a means to get the thing you really want. Alternatively, this prayer can be used as an excuse not to surrender to God, especially for those who only promise to follow God after He gives a sign or blessing. The bible is full of people who make such prayers, and many of them do not follow through with their promises even when God gives them what they want.

At the same time the bible includes many examples of people who make prayers that involve some type of exchange with God, but that God listens and a great results follows. We will look at the difference between these two to see what it shows us about prayer.

Luke 9:57-62 includes examples of people who said they would follow Jesus under certain conditions. Yet Christ demanded that all of them provide an unconditional surrender. He stated that those who would only follow Him under certain conditions were not worthy of following Him. Similarly He repeatedly said that those who demanded a sign in order to follow Him were wicked, and that they would not receive any sign besides His death and resurrection (a sign given to all the world).

The old testament is also full of examples of the people of Israel praying that if God would rescue them or provide for them, that they would follow Him. Yet even when God chose to listen to them, they repeatedly rejected Him. The problem is that when we approach God with conditions, or merely try to gain something from Him, that type of prayer is not pleasing to God. It is really a wicked and idolatrous prayer. Because if we truly desired God and worshiped Him above all other things, then we would not approach Him conditionally. We would offer ourselves before Him and then ask according to His mercy.

What about when Hannah says she will dedicate her son to God if He will allow Her to have a son (1 Samuel 1)? It seems like this prayer, along with some other examples in the bible, are precisely give and take in nature. It looks like Hannah struck a bargain with God there.

There is a reason why these prayers are different. The first is that all these people recognize who God is, and believe in His power and submit to Him.

The second is that they come before God in weakness and humility, not making demands but asking that God do something that would enable them to follow Him and glorify Him. God knows the hearts of those who pray to Him. God opposes the proud but lifts up the humble.

The third is that they act in faith. Notice how Hannah is filled with peace and is no longer sad after she prays. She is not yet pregnant but her attitude changes and she rises to worship the Lord the next day. The fact that she keeps trusting in God even before she becomes pregnant shows that her trust and confidence in life is in the Lord.

Finally, Hannah actually followed through on her promise, and chose to honor God with the blessing that He gave her.

So what can we learn from these examples?

-We cannot bargain with God, He simply cannot be bought (we will look more into this in the next post). But God is merciful and may listen to those who ask for His help in humility and faith

-We must believe that God is able to do what we ask.

-We must set our hopes on God, whether or not we receive the thing we ask for. (If we look at 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul in faith and humility pleaded with God to remove a specific suffering in his life. But God responded by saying that His grace was sufficient for Paul, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness.)

 

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:5-15 that true prayer is about first honoring and hallowing God’s name. It is about first adoring Him. All the prayer that follows (both our petitions and confessions) are done for the sake of His glory, kingdom and power. Prayer is not about negotiating with God but about praising Him and laying requests before Him to ultimately align our wills with His will. That is why we always pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The final thing to remember is that God is worthy of our worship and obedience at all times. So we should not hold our obedience captive until He delivers on what we want. We need to obey and trust that He hears everyone of our petitions and responds out of His love and grace (even when we do not receive what we ask for).

Perhaps you have noticed that your prayers lately have not been focused on honoring God and drawing near to Him, but that you have tried repeatedly to negotiate with Him to get something that you want. If so, take time to recognize His holiness and worthiness. Meditate on the fact that He loves you and promises to care for those who submit to Him. When you come before Him in humility and adoration, make your petitions before Him and believe that He will do what is best, because He loves you and He is strong. There are many examples in the bible of How humble and righteous prayers made in faith had powerful results.

 

 

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