It’s not really the kind of bargaining you do in Divisoria, though in some sense it is. A lot of times I bargain with God, something like what Abraham and Moses did, but theirs were more consequential or significant. They involved cities and nations and lots of people’s lives. Mine are just petty concerns—nice shirt, leather shoes, a Burger King meal, a cab ride, or loads of kiwi fruit.
For instance, God would give me a new promotional shirt through a friend, and at the back of the shirt it says, “Best Paint!” I’d appreciate that a lot. Imagine wearing a new shirt with a can of paint printed on the front and a catchy commercial phrase on the back. I mean, not everybody gets to wear that. Only a select few.
And I get that for my birthday.
Now, since the gates of heaven are open for me at the time (it’s my birthday, after all), I try to acquire more “items” from heaven. I start to bargain with God. “It’s a nice shirt, really, but I’d be happy to give it to my pal, the garbage scavenger, if you give me a Giordano shirt and jeans instead. It’s my birthday, anyway.” Such bargaining actually makes you feel good, having a heart for the poor and marginalized, which you feel deserves some reward—like a Giordano shirt and jeans—and it’s your birthday, anyway.
And then you add some more in the cart. “And a hearty lunch at Max will be well appreciated. Promise.”
Most times, God grants the bargain or negotiation effort, but many times he doesn’t—even if it’s your birthday. He probably wants you to develop better negotiation skills. Or perhaps, he sees future problems with the thing you’re asking. Some folks tell me it’s not really a “no” from God. I just have to wait for the right time. Wait? I’ve been waiting 50 years for a lot of things I have been bargaining with God. Fifty years! But then, I remember how Abraham got his heart’s desire at age 100—when he was so old and Sarah’s womb was dead.
But then. I also remember how God zapped Sodom and Gomorrah anyway despite Abraham’s pleas and bargaining. Things like this play in my mind when I’m bargaining with God. But often, all thoughts melt away with the promise, “Ask and it shall be given.” But it doesn’t say “bargain.” It says “ask.” What’s the difference?
Bargaining is asking for more favorable terms, probably like what the Syrophoenician woman asked when Jesus told her it wasn’t good to give bread intended for the children to the dogs.
Or, it’s probably like what the neighbor did when he insistently asked for three loaves of bread from a friend at midnight because he had nothing to offer a guest who had come from a long journey.
So, bargaining seems a stronger word than asking. It suggests insistence. If so, is it right to say, “Bargain and it shall be given”? Doesn’t God want us to keep asking?
But “bargaining” has overtones of dissatisfaction or discontent with what is given you. You’re given something but you want something more. And this can be bad or good. For instance, it’s bad if it feeds your mundane desires or caprices. It’s good if it’s for the good of your neighbor. You bargain with God, for instance, if you see a beggar eating food from the trash, and you ask God to give him something better and more decent to eat.
Jesus saw the Samaritan woman contented to drink water that would make her thirsty again. So he encouraged her to drink water that would quench her thirst for good. There are situations when God does not want us contented with what we have. He wants us to ask for more. And there are times He wants us to be simply content.
So when do you need to bargain with God? When someone justly needs more than he or she is getting. And it can apply to yourself. Bargain with God for yourself if you see that you have been getting too many promotional shirts, for instance, and it’s about time you get a Giordano shirt. I’m not saying that doing this will guarantee results. God alone knows what is just and fair for you. Sometimes, our idea of just and fair is the opposite of how God sees them. But bargaining is always worth a try.
And when should you forget about bargaining? When you see that getting more is meaningless. And often, more is meaningless. It only looks cool and successful, but it’s often vanity.
Some people make bargaining with God sound bad. Well, to many people, everything is bad—except what they say or do. To me, bargaining can be within the bounds of, “Seek and you shall find.” Seek what else (or what more) you can possibly ask from God. You won’t find out unless you try asking for more.
That was how I was enabled to speak in unknown tongues. Once upon a time, I was contented with usual worship. You sang and felt the lyrics of the song, and that was it. But then one day I wanted more. I was afraid to ask for more because the elders around me then said we should be content with what we had.
So, I was already enjoying usual worship, but I bargained for more. I was in my room alone and asked for worship on a higher level. After moments, I was brought to the point when human words were not enough to express what was in my heart. I moaned and groaned and wailed until I had a breakthrough. God granted my bargaining request by His grace and mercy.