A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is It OK to Bargain with God?

The Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born the second son of Hans and Magarete Luther. Martin's father was a miner who wanted his son to enter a profession that had more security. It was decided that Martin would study law. He was almost done with his studies, when one day in 1505, at the age of 21, he was caught outside in the midst of a violent thunderstorm. In the midst of his fear, Luther cried out to St. Anna, the patron saint of miners, "Save me, Saint Anna, and I shall become a monk!"

Luther kept his vow and not too many days later, to the great disappointment of his father and his mother, he entered the Augustinian monastery in the town of Erfurt. Many historians have argued that Luther was already leaning in that direction as a result of his studies, and that the thunderstorm experience only gave certainty to his desires. Nevertheless, in the midst of an intense moment, Luther made a bargain with St. Anna and by extension, God himself.

Many people have tried to bargain with God, most of the time in quite difficult situations. I knew a philosophy professor who was a fighter pilot in World War II, who promised God in the midst of an intense dogfight that if God saw him through the war, he would devote his life to the study of religion and philosophy. He kept his promise.

Is it OK to bargain with God? I do not mean asking God for something; we do that all the time in prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked his Heavenly Father to take the cup he was about to drink from him, but he did not offer to exchange something in return. We do, however ask God to bless us. Is it too much of a sacrilegious stretch to ask for something in return for our commitment? God if you do this for me, I will do that for you?

Of course, it is true that some people commit their lives to Jesus Christ after God has done something dramatic in their lives, but that was not something they bargained for ahead of time. It was a response to something they had not asked for in return for something else before God acted on their behalf.

Let me suggest that it is never OK to bargain with God, because in bargaining with God we get to set the parameters of the deal, not the Almighty. When one looks in the Bible at the covenants God makes with his people, it is God who sets the terms of the covenants and they are non-negotiable. God says, "This is what I will do for you; here is what you will do." There is no bargaining here. 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 is no bargaining-- only God's promises and stipulations, and our obedience.

On many Sunday mornings in worship, I will utter the following in prayer, "Lord we have come here to worship you, for you alone are worthy of our praise. We ask that as we worship, you will offer to each one of us gathered here the word of help we need for this day." This is not bargaining language. I am not saying to God, "God if you give us your word of assistance, we will worship you." No! It is, "God we will worship you in this place whether we hear a word from you or not, but we are asking for that word all the same."

Martin Luther kept the word of the bargain he made, and God did great things through him. God wants to do great things through each and every one of us, but none of that is up for negotiation. God calls, we respond, and we ask God to establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).


Ted M. Gossard said...

Excellent post, Allan. Helpful.

Amen! And thanks.

stf (lorna) said...

another way of looking at this is not as bargaining with God... but as our keeping OUR end of the contract.

the covenant requires that

Rev. Lara Zinda said...

I always find bargaining to require being in a position of value to the other person - having something the other wants. What in the world could an all powerful, all loving God want from us other than our obedience and as such, our love?

Bargaining for us to return the love He gives us freely is not really at all a reasonable, nor logical, act. Our free will is because of His love for us and as such, we are given the right to return that love freely.

Love is given freely or it is not given at all. One cannot bargain for love.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Yes, we need to keep our end of the "bargain" as you say. But it is not as if God seeks arbitration. You are correct, however, that the covenant requires our obedience.


Good thoughts. We have nothing to offer God, but God loves us so much and desires to be in relationship with us, we are free to return the favor.

Well, done! I am proud that you were my student!

Bob Beeflips said...

I found this link when I was researching James 5:12: Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
I agree with the other posts too! Thanks for your wisdom.

Calvin Friend said...

I found this post while researching the five stages of grief (hardly Biblical, but insightful)which suggest that bargaining is necessary to our grief. I think I would agree that bargaining with God sends the wrong message, but that God accepts us where we are and takes what we offer and uses it sometimes in tremendous ways. Martin Luther, as you mention, should not have been bargaining with God; but he did, and as a result, the Reformation.

Anonymous said...

This information is just what I needed for our Bible Study. We had lengthy discussion about bargaining with God. This is most helpful.
Carol Ramsden

Carlia Sanderson said...

I've never read in the Bible where God says we can't bargain with Him. In 1 Samuel, Hannah was baron and bargained with God to give her a son and promised to give him back to God, which she did and named him Samuel, the prophet priest of Israel. Also Judges 10 & 11 Jephtha bargained with God to have victory over the Ammonites and promised to give the first person that walked thru his door at his dwelling when he returned home, as a burnt offering to God. His daughter (only child) walked thru the door. He honored God and said he could not go back on his promise. Jephtha went on to win battles and judged Israel 6 years. God is in complete control and sets the pace, because He's the one that will say yes or no. If He didn't want bargaining, God would not bite his tongue and tell us not to do it. These 2 stories alone let us know it's okay or God would not have blessed them abundantly.

Carlia Sanderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carlia Sanderson said...

Bargaining with God~~Genesis 18: 23-33 ~~ When God was preparing to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God was He destroying the righteous with the wicked and if there were 50 righteous would he still destroy the city. He kept going to God bargaining with God for them to be spared. He went from 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, to 10 people, if there was that amount of good men and would God spare the city. God patiently answered Abraham each time and honored it. Unfortunately there were less than 10 good men in Sodom and Gomorrah and destruction fell upon them. Genesis 28:9 ~~ Jacob vowed to God, "if God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, then shall the Lord be my God" God gave him those things and the Lord was his God. Many of us bargain with God because of many unanswered prayers or difficult situations. And just maybe He won't give some of us certain things unless we do vow to worship Him totally or do something that we normally wouldn't do that would be pleasing to Him. Bargaining in many ways could be certain forms of rewards, coming from God. And sometimes lifesavers.

Mr Maranatha said...

It is pretty well established that Bargaining with God is not only acceptable to him, but is desireable in that he enjoys the entreaties of his children.. within reason, good taste and when done properly. BUT... There are some ways that should never be practiced or encouraged. Things you should never do: 1) Come to God thinking that "HE" owes "u" something. (He is God and you are not) 2) Try to dictate to God the terms... especially terms that are made selfishly or contrary to God's will. 3) Dictation of terms which lack faith. and are an affront to God. EX: Im not going to do this untill after you do that. I recently visited a man who did this to God.. hoping to go home from the hospital the next day (refused to do what he knew was right in rectifying some paperwork on the hope that God would grant him more days to take care of it after he went home and recovered... He died two days later. Last Thursday he was placed in the soil. God saved his soul.. but cut the negotiations short and took him home.
Faith is a Vital part of Prayer... and Is a Valuable Bargaining Chip.

To have said :God I will sign these papers... but there are so many more people who are depending on me to do likewise... I will sign these on faith... please give me time to finish this before I die.. Please??? That prayer would have been granted... because of the Faith promise involved... and the Act of good faith to commence the bargain.

Things that make for Good Bargaining with God:
1: Exaltation of God and the Most High and almighty.. Sovereign God.
2) Confession of our Sins and that we are powerless without his help.
3) Non-Selfish Petitions that God admires.
4) Thankfulness of the Blessings that he bestows...
5) Faithfull witnesses of what God has done for us.
6) Honoring God's sovereign will in the decisions we are trying to make.
7) Reminding him that we will continue to serve Him no matter what his decision is in the matter... "And whatever you decide dear Lord... we will continue to Love you and serve you to the best of our humble abilities."

I hope this helps some of you.
I am not much on Martin Luther.. He killed Christians just like the Romish Church did. Im also not much on prayers to Saints as they do not want prayers directed to themselves and do not answer prayers... that is Romish Folklore religion passed off as Christianity but not found favorably in Scripture.