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Honest Prayer Isn't Perfect

My nine-year-old daughter, Arielle, made a trade last year on the bus with her friend Noemi. It wasn’t much of a trade. Noemi gave her two boxes of Tagalongs, and Arielle gave her four hardened, stale Peeps. 

“Arielle, I was getting ready to throw those Peeps away,” I said.

“I know, mom, but Noemi said she wanted them.” 

Arielle wasn’t trying to use Noemi to get a box of cookies. She sat next to Noemi every day on the bus. She would have been her friend whether Noemi had given her a box of Tagalongs or a rusty paperclip. But after rummaging through the cupboards all she could find to give back was four hardened yellow Peeps.  

A few days later, I found myself trying to bargain with God about trying to sell my house and I realized that I had nothing more than a few pathetic promises of what I could do with my extra time and money once it sold, which felt a lot like four stale Peeps.

I know, I know, you are not supposed to bargain with God. I have heard all of the warnings. Trying to bargain with God brings more bad luck than not forwarding on that chain letter with the picture of the puppy.

Speaking of animals - my dog, a black Labrador Retriever mix, is very good at bargaining. I can stand with one bite of chicken in my hand and say nothing and get an entire performance.  Let’s try sitting. Nope, didn’t work. How about down? Roll over? Oh, I know. Shake is cute.  Lay on the bed? Nope. Shut the closet door with my paw. Umm. Bark a lot. Oops, that really didn’t work.

And isn’t that really what I’m doing when I bargain with God? I’m just trying to figure out what He wants in a long period of silence. Okay, what is He trying to teach me? Patience? Nope. Pray harder and be more persistent? Not really. Learn to ask for help and lean on others? Be generous and give back? Apparently not.  Take action yourself? Not this time

So, in this moment, was bargaining the worst option? It was not denying God’s sovereignty or power. I was well aware that God could sell my home. And I was well aware that He may or may not do it. That’s why I bargained so hard. I wasn’t bargaining with God because I thought I had anything to offer Him. I bargained because that’s how an imperfect child approaches a parent - and I’d rather be close than perfect. And I’m not the only one who has done that. Abraham bargained with God over Sodom, and Jacob bargained with God over his safety.

Genesis 28:20: “Then Jacob made a vow, saying ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

I wish I were the kind of person that could float along on clouds of peace and say, “Thy will be done!” without having to go through all the tears and fist shaking and (yes), bargaining before I reach the point of surrender. But that’s not me. 

I think God knew that my bargain wasn’t about how I view Him but instead about me telling Him how badly I wanted the house to sell. We bargain with God when we’re desperate. I was acknowledging that I was out of options. And while it may not be the prayer that I should strive for, it’s an honest starting point start. And our honesty is all He really wants.

God, I just rummaged through my pantry and all I have left is four stale Peeps, and they’re Yours, God. In fact, they’re Yours whether You give me those Tagalongs or not. But just in case you hadn’t realized it, those Tagalongs smell really good.


Post by Monica Tatera (CG Midtown).