A young father kneels down to pray beside his sick child. “I promise,” he says, “if she can get well, I will read my scriptures every day.”
A woman pauses before a job interview. “If I can just get this job,” she says, “I’ll get myself temple worthy and go.”
A young man prays that if his team can win the play-off, he’ll go on a mission.
Ever found yourself bargaining with God?
Sometimes we feel so desperate in our need that we try to make a deal with our Father in Heaven. It isn’t much different than a teenager saying, “If you’ll just let me borrow the car this one time, I promise I’ll never get another ticket.”
I would imagine that the same reaction you just had to the teenager, is similar to God’s reaction when we make wild promises that probably won’t be kept.
There are several problems inherent in attempting to strike a bargain with God.
- It assumes we have something to give him that he wants and can’t have. In truth, all he wants is our hearts and our obedience. But it doesn’t actually benefit Him; it benefits us. It’s like a child promising to eat healthy foods-the child is the one who will benefit; we only benefit in our pleasure at his making good choices.
- Most of our wild promises are just that: Wild. They’re things we’ve never been disciplined enough to do before, and likely won’t this time, either.
- The bargain contains an unspoken threat: “And if I don’t get what I want, then I won’t read the scriptures, or I won’t get temple ready, or I won’t serve a mission.” We imply that we are released from our obligations if Heavenly Father refuses our plea.
- But the worst part of the bargaining process is the admission that we are not doing what we are supposed to now, and the only way we’ll bring our actions into line is if God grants us a genie wish. For shame.
We should be willing to correct our lives and live according to the gospel either way. Picture the Holy Ghost whispering to you next time you offer a deal, “And what if the answer is no?” Suddenly your deal looks ridiculous-you are forced to admit that you have actually said you will only obey God’s commandments if he lets you have your way. And that is not pure obedience; it doesn’t even fringe on faith. It is way out Adversaryland, and you know it.
The proper way to show Heavenly Father that we are worthy is simply to be it. Obey because you love him. Start now to read your scriptures, get yourself temple worthy, prepare to serve the mission. Then when you pray, you come from a firm foundation of obedience, and can rightly request His help. You are also in a better position to understand if the answer is no, and to appreciate it if the answer is yes.
Joni’s daily advice show, The Joni Hilton Show, airs weeknights from 6-8 pm Pacific Time, streaming live at kahi.com. Previously recorded shows can also be heard there. If you’d like to call her show, the toll free number is 1-800-950-5244.