Praying Let’s Make a Deal
I confess, sometimes I play Let’s Make a Deal with God. Silent prayers cross my mind, and I realize the words I’m saying: God, would you please answer this one? I want this even more than the last. You don’t have to answer the others, but please this one! Have you ever felt yourself doing the same? Have you caught yourself arranging your requests into some kind of hierarchy hoping that God acquiesces to our chain of importance? Or maybe you catch yourself withholding a request that’s ranked too low in importance.
We might know this approach to God is wrong, but it is so easy to slip into. In order to set a right perspective, we must speak back with truth to our bargaining hearts about the true nature of prayer and the Lord.
What Exactly Am I Praying For?
While we would never openly say God is some sort of genie, deep down sometimes we treat him as such. We speak to him like we can “take back” requests in order to offer up what we’ve changed our mind to. But we don’t pray to a genie.
God is the King of all–sovereignly working out his redemption in the world. He’s turning the hearts of kings by his own hand, he’s sending out the church to grow, and he’s actively building his kingdom (Prov. 21:1).
And yet this sovereign God calls us his beloved children. Because of Christ’s death, we have access to the Father, and we can boldly approach his throne (Heb. 4:16). He invites us to come into his presence and to commune with him as a loving Father would wish to hear from his children.
We pray to our Father. We don’t pray in order to merely detail what we want most, but instead we pray in order to talk to our Father about our needs. Prayer provides us the opportunity to tell God what we’re fearing, what we’re feeling, and what we’re longing for. Focusing on our ranked request alone often robs us from comfort and encouragement of further communion with Christ.
We might whisper to the Lord, Oh please don’t let our kids get sick for this weekend. We can get sick today, but this weekend is so much more important. Yet what if instead of merely bargaining, we approached the same prayer remembering God is our Father?
We’d approach him instead with our fear of changed plans, disappointment, and discouraged kids. We’d admit it’s scary to live as a creature in a fallen world, where sickness and sorrow (even the small, seemingly silly kind) can pop up at a moment’s notice. We’d be forced to confess our lack of control, and we’d ask God to help strengthen our fearful hearts.
Perhaps the Spirit would stir us to remember the ways the Lord provided for his people day-in and day-out throughout the Scriptures, or the ways he has done so already in our very own lives. We’d be pushed to remember the love of the Lord for us, his victory over the curse of sin, and that one day fear of sickness will be gone forever.
These prayers are so much richer than trying to wheedle out deals. They rightfully acknowledge God as our loving Father who draws near to us, not to merely grant requests, but to change us and mold us into the people he created us to be.
Praying to the Limitless God
Furthermore, our bargaining with God tricks us into believing he has limits–as if his care for us only extends so far. When a bigger petition comes to mind, we begin to think that surely God won’t grant me a traffic-free road and a good test result at the doctor. He’s got limits, right? Surely God wouldn’t grant healing, patience, and strength for a sister struggling through a difficult surgery recovery and bother to answer my prayer for a smooth work meeting? Those just aren’t anywhere on the same playing field. God will laugh at it. How dare we bother him with the small things when we know there are bigger ways we’d rather he work?
But our Lord doesn’t work that way. Our God is limitless in power. Herman Bavinck wrote that even after creating the whole of the world God “retains and possesses within Himself an infinite plenitude of life and strength. Nothing is too wonderful or hard for Him (Gen. 18:14); with Him all things are possible (Matt. 19:26)” (The Wonderful Works of God, p. 51). Christian, we don’t have to bargain with God. His power, grace, and strength know no end (Eph. 2:7). He doesn’t need to portion out his grace to whatever seems most deserving.
Beyond that, God is also limitless in his love. So yes, he really does want you to talk to him about your fears about being stuck in traffic. He wants you to bring before him the work meeting that’s been on your mind all day. He desires to know your anxious thoughts and disappointments. Even if they’re small. Even if you’re also praying for other much more weighty situations. He’s no genie or temple idol. He’s your Savior who loves you.
Will each request be answered as you wish? Not necessarily. But again, the grace and mercy that God extends to us isn’t bound up in the petitions themselves. We’re granted so much through the very words of desperation we pray to him. We’re comforted by his presence, encouraged by his love, strengthened by his grace, and built up by his faithfulness.
When you catch yourself playing the next round of Let’s Make a Deal, I hope you pause to remember what’s true. Find the sweetness of not only speaking your needs but in speaking about them. Then remember your limitless Father who cares about every need of his children—from the greatest to the smallest.