“The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
The Song of Miriam1
Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
What is the prayer that gets you saved? God has undoubtedly heard it all, in every (or nearly every) language. He has been offered everything in exchange for help. This kind of bargaining (and I want to tread carefully here) is not really what God wants, and yet all of us do it, as if part of the human experience. Since so many bible characters offered sacrifices to God, which were often accepted by Him, and following the Exodus, even regulated by Him. That leads me to believe that although God does not desire sacrifice (see Psalm 51, Hosea 6, Psalm 40, and Isaiah 1, He works with us when we want to use bargaining as a way to communicate and have a relationship with Him.
One of my favorite stories of such bargaining I heard from a retired pastor. He had served in the Army and had stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 with a small group of soldiers he commanded. Just before they landed, he told God that if he and his men were protected and lived through the battle, he would dedicate the rest of his life to God. He and his men all survived the day, and when he got back home, he joined the ministry and spent the rest of his life serving churches throughout the Midwest. He gave his life to God as a bargain for saving his life and the life of his fellow soldiers. Perhaps it is not the most theologically mature way of connecting with God… but God’s willingness to allow us to approach him in clumsy ways led to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people brought closer to God through Harry’s ministry.
But lets be honest, it takes more than one prayer to live a life like Harry’s. It takes a continual prayer. It takes a prayer like the one Jesus taught us to pray. What has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer is a not a prayer of bargaining. It is a prayer of surrender. From the outright surrender of our will to God’s in “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to the more implicit asking for forgiveness for ourselves and those who sin against us as well (an excellent example of a way God calls us to spread knowledge of Him across the entire world), this entire prayer is one of surrendering our selves over to serve God. The few provisions requested in this prayer are not for personal comfort, but provision and protection while we serve. This is a prayer of a servant, not a prayer of someone bargaining for religious services. It is a prayer meant to be prayed by someone with nothing to give in return, because by the time they are praying it, they have already offered God everything they have.
God wants us all to serve Him not out of a spirit of tyranny, but out of love. He knows that he can care and provide for us better than we could ever hope to do so by ourselves. Many of us run out of resources to bargain with before our life runs out. Insurance companies bank on this. Investment companies use it to buy our loyalty. Yet only God truly has enough abundance to care for our every need. God can take care of us if we will let Him.
What prayer do you find yourself praying most often?
How has God answered that prayer for you?
- (Num 26:59)↩