From Tracie: Bargaining With God

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bargaining With God

I want to get real honest with you about prayer. Sometimes I find myself approaching prayer like it is a negotiation.

Maybe it was all of those Bible studies and books I read as a teenager: 10 Steps to Effective Prayer, How to Pray like Jesus, Using Scripture to Pray, Fasting like Daniel with 21 Days of Prayer, Seal the Deal on Your Prayer Contract (okay, I definitely made that last one up, but you know the books I am referring to). I don't think those books and studies are inherently bad, but I think they might have messed me up a little bit.

I start to pray. While I'm praying, a part of my mind is focused not on the prayer, not on the Lord, but on the act of prayer.

The strategy seeps in. I pause my request to make the words more proper. I remind myself to praise before I ask. I mentally search for a verse to apply to the situation, so I can first remind God of His words. I couch my request in a plea to "do this for Your kingdom, not for me, but for Your honor."

I'm not concentrating on God, because I'm distracted by the need to get the prayer right - to be perfect in my attitude and words.

If that wasn't enough, as all of this is happening, another voice kicks in, and says, "Is this a waste? It isn't like God doesn't know that you just thought out what you were going to say in your little bargaining session while you were doing it. He knows your heart, and that means He knows you are not really praying out of your heart, but out of formula and strategy. You aren't fooling Him."

I have to pause and answer that voice back, "Fooling Him? I wasn't trying to fool Him. I was praying effectively.....right? Obviously I couldn't fool Him. I was just trying to do it right. Now I need to stop thinking about doing it right, and reprimanding myself, because this is probably nullifying all the right words I was trying to use."

Does that sound like a lot of prayer is happening? Not really. I know there is nothing effective about having a separate conversation with myself about not having a strategic prayer conversation with myself while I'm trying to pray.

Reverence. Praying scripture. Concentrating on God's will. These are all great things, but after a while I start to feel like I'm bargaining with God instead of talking to Him.

I miss the talking. I miss the relationship. I miss the easy flow of words.

I don't want to play a messed up game of Let's Make A Deal anymore. I don't want to spend so much energy concentrating on getting it right.

Macrina Wiederkehr quote about prayer

I want to remember...
- The times when I called out to God in desperation. The times when I cried out with what were probably the most hurt, confused, scared, un-strategic prayers I have ever prayed, and God gave me a miracle.

- The times I sat quietly and worshiped, and the times I rejoiced loudly.

- The times I pleaded with Him for big things, and the times I marveled at little things, and the times I just told Him about my day.

- The times I reached out to friends and prayed in a group, and the times when I prayed alone.

- Times I yelled, and the times I whispered, and the times I didn't even have words of my own to say.

...because I might not have followed the (probably valid, and sometimes even based on the Bible) formulas shared in a book during all those times, but I had relationship moments.

I talked to God. No negotiations, no bargains, no strategy.

Just me and God.

Just me and God - that is amazing! I don't want to miss out on time focused on our relationship because I'm having another strategy meeting with myself.


  1. first I had to adjust my thoughts about just who/what God was. I tell most people I am a recovering Catholic. Born, raised, schooled in the faith and as many know, lived with the hypocrisy of it all. I think the title "God Orderly Direction" was the best saying I've heard. To much in my life I've seen blamed and/or credited on a Being that no one really knew.

  2. WOW! I have felt like this soo many times. We want to be disciplined to our prayer time and then the Devil gets us all distracted. One of the things that I have started doing is having worshiip time first, time to just be quiet and perhaps listen to music. At times, that is all my prayer time is and that is ok. The rules get us all crazy. We just have to remember that it is our motive what is at our heart. God sees our heart.

  3. Yes, I know my prayers in time of need and desperation were definitely much more real than any other time. I love listening to my kids pray as they don't always get the technique right but their faith is far greater than mine and they do just sometimes talk as if they are talking to their Father.

  4. Oh Tracie! This is so VERY good! You have expressed, in ways I've never been able to put into words, the cry of my own heart!

  5. I love this!!! :) The *best* thing that I've ever heard on prayer is that if you look at the beautiful prayers in the Bible that are recorded they're mostly flawed and imperfect prayers--"Lord have mercy on me, a sinner." God just wants to hear our hearts above all else for sure! I think if you don't always focus on that it turns more into "vain repetitions" than anything else!

  6. I, too, tend to use the Jesus prayer. I find it very meditative. This was a great post. Everyone who experiences it longs for the authentic moment of communion with the Father. Great recycled post :)

  7. I know exactly what you mean. I find myself praying when I am worried, scared, or in need. that's not a relationship. I need to work more at listening and developing the prayer, not just praying when I feel desperate! Thanks for sharing!

  8. This rings true to my prayer life right now. This morning I had some much needed time with God. Just talking (a little crying) but just being with him. It didn't take Him long to confirm her heard every word. Beautiful and timely post!

  9. I have felt like this many times but never managed to put it into words like you have!

  10. You know what, I think those strategy meetings are fine, because God is there refereeing the entire thing. He knows our hearts and that's such a relief, because some of my prayers are real gong shows, and I end up saying, "Well, dearest Jesus, you know what I mean." And I see His face smiling golden light into mine. I have to say though, that I agree: those times when I'm praying out of desperation and my wounds are crying out to be healed are the times I feel Christ right there with me.