Everyone likes to find a bargain. It makes you feel like you've gotten a good deal. Did you know there are many biblical examples of people bargaining with God and having their prayers answered in return? What can you learn from their example?
How many of your like to find a bargain? Can I see your hands? Oh, good, everybody's still awake. That's a good sign. How many of you like to bargain? A few less people enjoy that. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit Thailand and I was planning to pick up a few trinkets for family and friends and my host who was traveling with me suggested that when we get to Thailand, he was going to teach me how to bargain. He said, "People in Thailand think you are foolish to pay retail price, so just as a matter of course, wherever you go in Thailand , you should bargain.- So he was going to show me how. We got to one of the markets - in fact there was an all night market in Chang Mai where we were staying at the time, so we went out after sunset and went into the market and he said, "Let me show you how to do this.- Went up to the first vendor and he said, "Do you see anything here you like for a gift for the folks back home?- And I said, "Yeah, that scarf would be nice to take back to my wife or my mother—in—law.- And he said, "Okay, let's begin bargaining.- So he asked the price and the price was given and we did the exchange in our brains and then he said, "Well, look. Just watch me.- And he offered less than 50% of the asking price. Well I was just shocked that he would do that. And then he began this bargaining and I noticed that the lady, the saleswoman who was in this kiosk, her eyes got a little bigger and she became very engaged with him and you could tell she really enjoyed the process of bargaining. And we ended up getting that scarf at about 60% of the asking price which I felt pretty good about. Put that in my bag and we went on and we found this same scarf or a similar scarf at another kiosk and he said, "Would you like another scarf?- I said, "Well, we just got that scarf.- And he said, "Well, what's this?- And he began to bargain at this one and we got her down to 50% of the asking price and I felt bad. It's amazing how your emotions can go from really good to really bad in about 10%, isn't it?
Here in the United States, I don't know how many of you have thought about this, but we do bargain. Most of us who go to retail stores, of course, we would never think of bargaining, you know, for that suit or that coat or that dress or that skirt, but when we first came to this area about a little less than a year ago, we went house hunting. I asked the real estate woman, I said, "We can see the asking price on the listing sheet, but what should we offer for the price?- She said, "Oh, I'd begin maybe 7 to 5% below the asking price.- Well, being from California, this was a little bit of a shock to me because when we sold our house in California, we had a listing price which I thought was way too high, but within four days we had four people who offered us more than the asking price - which I really liked. And then coming to this market, there being a sellers market and here being a buyers market, I like that, too. So we found a home we liked and we offered about 7% less than the asking price and then the person began to bargain with us and we bargained to an agreeable price on the home we eventually bought here. And oftentimes, I have gone to appliance stores and bargained for major appliances and major expenses that you have. Major articles that you want to buy, you can actually bargain for. I bought a new car not too long ago, about three years ago and I went into several dealerships and I bargain. Bargained the best price and when they were ready to sign me up and I said, "No, no, no. I've got to check another dealer.- And I kept checking dealers and finally I was able to get one at even a lesser price than all those dealers that offered me through the credit union. So we do bargain in this country, you know, we don't just buy retail. We all like to get a bargain, we like to barter and bargain.
Several years ago I went to the Middle East and I'll never forget this. Once again, I found out that people in the Middle East like to bargain, too. We were visiting in East Jerusalem and I found something that I wanted to buy and bring home and I began this process of bartering and bargaining with this salesman and the more I bargained, the more excited he got and he was so dramatic. I'll never forget it. It was like an actor. I'd make him an offer and he'd go, "Ah ha! I can't take it anymore!- He'd turn around and walk around the store. He would just get so upset. Then he would come back with a counteroffer and I kind of enjoyed this so I got in the game, too. I'd make him an offer and he'd say, "No, no. Can't do it- So I would say, "Okay- And I'd walk out the door and down the street and he kept chasing me. "No, no. Come back. Come back. Come back.- And we'd go back. They enjoy the game, if you will. The matching of wits, the challenge of the bargain. In fact, in the Middle East, it's a way of life. I ended up buying the article at probably more than he was willing to sell it to me for, but I was happy. I had bargained it down, the price. And about two days later, I came back with another person that was on the tour with me and I walked by the same store and the man recognized me. He said, "Oh, oh, oh. Come in. Come in.- He was more interested in bargaining than he was in selling. To him, he enjoyed the sport - the game - and, frankly, it is a long tradition in the Middle East.
You'll notice in Genesis, chapter 18, a classic example of bargaining is found here in the life of Abraham. Genesis 18 and verse 20 and this concerns, as most of us probably know, the cities of Sodom and Gomorah.
Gen 18:20 — the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
Verse 21 — "I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know."
Verse 22 — Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
Like I said, in the Middle East and certain parts of this world, bargaining is a way of life. It's a challenge, it's an interesting way of doing business, of dealing with one another, discussion.
And Abraham came near and said... in verse 23 ... "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Notice what's happening here. I don't want to reduce this to a game because it's a very serious matter. We are talking about the existence of twin cities. We are talking about many lives. But, on the other hand, this tradition of Middle Easterners begins. The bartering, the count, the counterpoint - the count, the point, the counterpoint takes place.
Verse 24 — "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare... the fifty righteous that were there?
Verse 25 — "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do the right thing?"
Now, we have to admit, Abraham's got a pretty good point. He begins this discussion with God. Point - counterpoint - arguing his point. The Lord recognized this, I believe, and probably enjoyed it to some degree.
Verse 26 — And the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."
Verse 27 — Then Abraham then said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to again speak to the Lord:
He takes a very humble approach to the next level of bargaining. He says,
Verse 28 — "Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy that city for lack of five?" And He said, "If I find there forty—five, I will not destroy it."
Verse 29 — Then he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of forty."
And then he said in verse 30 — "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will just speak one more time. Now this is the art - the raw art of bargaining that is taking place here between Abraham and God. And he says, "Suppose there were thirty?- So He said, "I will not destroy it for thirty people.-
Then he said... in verse 31 — "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose now twenty should be found there?" Now he has bargained the price that is less than half of what he started with. And God said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty."
And in verse 32 — And he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."
Verse 33 — So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
Very serious negotiations, obviously not even ten were found in that city because it was eventually destroyed. But the point I'm trying to make here is I believe that God and Abraham enjoyed bargaining with one another. And I think there's a lesson for us to learn and I want to talk about that lesson today.
But before I get to the point, let's notice another example, this time in Genesis chapter 32. In Gen. 32 and verse 24 we read of the example of Jacob. I want to show you that God respects people who wrestle with Him or bargain with Him, negotiate with Him. Now, we might say, well there's no negotiating with God. Well, in one sense, you're right, but in another sense we just read an example of that. Let's notice Gen 32:24.
Gen 32:24 — Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man...capital M - you'll notice - at least in the New King James that I am reading from ...wrestled with him until the breaking of day. So they went at it toe—to—toe, you might say, all night long wrestling,
Verse 25 - And when He saw that He did not prevail against him... again, capital H in He, ...He touched the socket of his hip...we believe, of course, this to be the God of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, if you will, before His physical appearance, and He literally wrestled with Jacob just as He, I believe, literally talked to Abraham. ...and the socket of Jacob's hip was made out of joint as He...continued to wrestle. So He tried to give him a handicap, but he continued to be tenacious and hang on.
In verse 26 — He finally said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"
So, in essence, there's a negotiation going on here. I'm not going to relinquish until You give me a blessing.
Verse 27 — And He said to him, "What is your name?" Of course, He knew it full well, ...he said, "Jacob."
Verse 28 — And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel ... Prince of God or Prevailer with God. What goes on here is so important to the relationship between God — the God of the Old Testament — and Jacob that it caused the changing of Jacob's name to Israel because he prevailed, he tenaciously negotiated a blessing through his act of wrestling. God respected that. ...for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
Verse 29 — Then Jacob asked saying, "Well, tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you should ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.
Verse 30 - So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
And he recognized who it was. He knew that, I believe. He called the name of the place Peniel. It remained that name for many, many centuries. Face to face with God where he prevailed with God. Israel's name was changed to Prince of God or Prevailer with God because of his tenacious ability to negotiate with God. I think that this is very, very important. In fact, I tried to teach it to my sons very early on in life with the game of chess. Chess is, oftentimes, a game of negotiation. It's a game of count — point — counterpoint. It stretches the brain. It makes you think ahead, it makes you reason ahead and figure out steps along the way to get to the end where you want to be.
I remember one time that when I first got out of college, I got my first job and I had had my first job for a few weeks. I was working as a lifeguard at a sports facility and my boss came to me on Friday and said, "Dave, everybody's coming in tomorrow. We're doing inventory. It's our annual inventory day.- And I thought my job was a lock. I had been very successful, I thought, in the few weeks that I had been there and so I'd gone out and bought a brand new car. I bought a brand new '69 Camero and I really liked that car so much so that I think I've purchased three since again, - restored them and sold them. And here I was looking at my boss in the face on Friday morning and he said, "You've got to come in on the Sabbath and do inventory.- And all I could think of was my car payment which at that time was $100.36 a month and that was scary on my puny salary! Especially if I was going to lose my job and have no income at all. And he said, "You've got to come in, everybody else is on Sabbath morning.- I said, "No, I just can't do that, you know. I told you when I began that I couldn't work Saturdays. You got a sub for me, you know, for the weekends for my lifeguarding position and I just can't come in.- And he said, "You will either come in or you will be fired.- Well, I didn't have a very good night's sleep that night and Sabbath came and I got up early and I prayed very hard and I negotiated with God and I said, "God, I have bought a new car and You know I need a job. And You know I have to make those payments. The insurance is coming due soon. I need this job!- And I poured my heart out to God and I reasoned with God and bargained with God. "You help me keep this job so I can make my payments through this Sabbath crisis and I'll make sure that I always tithe to You.- What a puny bargain that was and I realized that even as I was on my knees. I said, "Okay, okay, I'll tithe anyway. Umm,- I said, "I'll tell you what. If you don't want me to have this job then get me a better - and one soon.- Well I went back to work on Sunday morning and my boss met me at the door and he said, "Clean out our locker. You're done. The job is over with.- And I remember going home and I prayed to God, I said, "Okay. Step one is down. Can you find me another job?- I said, "I need your help.- And the very next morning I looked in the newspaper and I saw an ad for a salesman and I thought, well maybe I should get out of the lifeguarding business. And I went in and I interviewed for that job and it happened to be an agency and the agency sent me on three interviews. I got three job offers, all paying twice what I was making as a lifeguard. Boy! I got excited and thought about buying two cars. No, not really. The point I'm trying to make is I really felt that God heard me and within a week and a half, I was on a new job and He had provided a way that I could pay the car payment, make the insurance payments and begin a new career.
Let's go to Numbers chapter 11. It wasn't just Abraham or Jacob, but Moses was one that negotiated with God. Num. Chapter 11, verse 11. I love this story because there have been many times as a pastor that I have related to these words. I see a couple of pastors nodding. After Israel had rebelled once again, Moses comes to the Lord and he says,
Num 11:11 — "Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?
Verse 12 — "Did I conceive all these people? Are these all my kids? There have been a couple of times this year at ABC the administrative team has kind of sat around the table and said, "Did we conceive these kids?- No. You begin to see, I think, this whole tradition of bargaining that comes through pretty loud and clear.
Verse 13 — Did I beget them, that You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,'... you know, strapped by a large rag to your chest walking through the wilderness like they would have with a nursing child. Is this what You wanted? "Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, 'Give us meat, that we may eat.'
Verse 14 — "I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.
Verse 15 — "If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now — if I have found favor in Your sight — and do not let me see my wretchedness!" He was pretty miserable. He was pretty down, wasn't he?
Have any of you ever been down and discouraged, maybe even at no fault of your own, but oftentimes at our own fault? I remember a time - it wasn't too long ago in my own memory - but I remember it distinctly in 1992 I was in a doctor's office and I had just had a biopsy removed from the back of my neck and the doctor told me that I had skin cancer and it was melanoma and it was deadly and I had to treat it right away. When you hear those words that I know some of you have heard those words from a doctor, "You have cancer- it's scary! It's highly motivating, too, to go before God on your knees and begin to negotiate, to begin to bargain, to begin to beg. I remember, I told a friend of mine that I'd been diagnosed with cancer and I was going to go under treatments soon and I remember what he said. He said, "Dave, I'm going to grab hold of the feet of God and I'm going to pray and I'm going to continue praying and I'm going to persistently pray until God answers our prayer.- To me that was very encouraging - extremely encouraging. It wasn't just a flippant 'Okay, I'll pray for you. Oh, I'm sorry you got diagnosed.' It really had the ring of someone who was going to go to his knees and negotiate with God on my behalf. Wow! That was very encouraging. And this man would consistently call me, he would talk to me, he would ask me when he saw me, "How are you doing? What's the latest? What's the latest development? What's going on?- I had to go through three surgeries, one right after the other, to remove that cancer before they finally found the borders that were clear and, thankfully, I have not had a recurrence of of that cancer and I think part of the fact that I have not is because that man, on my behalf, along with me and other loved ones negotiated hard, bargained hard with God for my life. I was encouraged by my friend.
God could see that Moses in this account we have been reading was discouraged.
Verse 16 — So the LORD said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there... before me.
Verse 17 — "Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same... spirit, the same attitude ...upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you... and you won't have to do it by yourself.
God listened to his complaint, if you will, but it was a negotiating type of complaint and He said, "I want to give you some encouragement.- He says, "You need 70 helpers- and so the group of seventy was formed and this form of leadership over Israel extended for thousands of years - the form of the Sanhedrin by the time Christ came along - to help with the burden of leadership. He got the encouragement he needed.
Let's go to Numbers the 14 th chapter back just a few pages and find another example — Moses reasoning and negotiating with God. Num. 14 and verse 11.
Num 14:11 — And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
Verse 12 — "I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."
Wow! Talk about a promise! Instead of being the 'sons of Jacob', we could all be a part of the tribe of Moses, the 'sons of Moses'. That's what God was offering him here. Israel had finally rejected God one too many times, He was very upset with Israel , He was going to obliterate them, and He said, "I'm going to make a great nation out of you, Moses.-
Verse 13 — And Moses said to the LORD: "Then the Egyptians will hear about it, for by Your might You brought these people from among them,
Verse 14 — "and they will tell it to the inhabitants of the land. And they have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and that Your cloud stands above them; and You go before them in the pillar of cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by night.
Verse 15 — "Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying,
Verse 16 — 'Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.'
What's going on here? Well, very clearly Moses is negotiating for the survival of the nation of Israel. He is saying, "Think about this, Lord, Your name is going to be besmirched among the other nations if this happens.- I'm sure that God who knows all understood this whole concept, but I think this is recorded here for a reason for us. "They are going to say,- he says in verse 16, 'Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.'
Verse 17 — "And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken... He said, a real example of the power that You have given us is
Verse 18 — ...longsuffering, abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.'
Verse 19 — "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."
Verse 20 — And ...the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word;
Moses negotiated for the existence of Israel and God said, "I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.- I don't know about you, but I had a lot of very heartfelt prayers during the early and mid '90's as I began to see God's church break apart. I read Matthew 16 verse 18 in prayer and I said, "God, You said You would found a Church, You would preserve it, You wouldn't allow it to disappear.- God knew about His promise but, nevertheless, in my prayers I continually reminded Him to preserve the church of God. I think there were thousands of others who did that same negotiating in their prayers for the survival of the Church and I saw that miracle begin in May of 1995 like many of you did. We see here this example of Moses.
Verse 20 — "I have pardoned, according to your word;
Verse 21 — "but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD —
Verse 22 — "because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,-
He said, I am going to preserve just a few. This whole generation is going to end up dying and wandering in the wilderness for forty years. They are not deserving of the promised land, but I am going to preserve this nation because of your negotiation, if you will.
Let's go to 2 Samuel and read of David. David was a man very close to God's heart, we know that, and he negotiated with God. In case you haven't figured it out yet, the title of my sermon is Increasing the Effectiveness of your Prayer by Bargaining with God . How many unanswered prayers are there in this room? Can I see your hands? Wow. I'm surprised. In most congregations where I have asked that question every hand in the room has raised. My hand is very high. I have prayers on the table that are as of yet unanswered. God, I believe, wants to answer our prayers, but He wants us to work with Him. He wants to teach us something about our prayer life to make it more effective. Let's notice here in 2 Sam. chapter 24 and verse 10. David had numbered Israel , numbered particularly his army to gloat about the power — I believe — that he had, the military strength that his country and nation had, this fledgling nation of Israel as compared to other nations in the land.
And David's heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. Verse 10 So David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly."
David, of course, was a man after God's own heart because he could see himself and he could repent when necessary.
Verse 11 — Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, and said,
Verse 12 — "Go and tell David, 'Thus says the LORD: "I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself... as a penalty ...that I may do it to you." ' "
Verse 13 — So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' plague in the land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me."
David answered very wisely because I think he knew the mind of God.
Verse 14 — David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD...
You know, sometimes we make foolish decisions and we get ourselves into trouble. All of us do that don't we from time to time. We want God to rescue us. Sometimes God says, "Well, I think it's better just to leave you in those circumstances. You can suffer the natural penalties of the mess you got into.- I don't know about you, but when I've gotten into those messes, I have gotten on my knees and I have pleaded with God, you know. "Please, get me out of this mess. And you know best how to do that so I leave it in Your hands.-
I'll tell you a prayer that I have prayed often and I have given this advice to many people I have counseled with about prayer and that is, sometimes when you have a difficult decision to make and you have a few options before you, that what you should do is ask God to close all of the wrong doors and leave the right one open so in our stupidity we can actually see where God wants us to go. That's worked for me. I've said, "God, please close the wrong doors so I can see the right one to walk through.- In this case I think David said, "I am in great distress...- in verse 14, " ...Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man."
So God's answer was to send a plague upon Israel and after it went so far God intervened, David cried out to God and this led to the open door to buying the piece of property on which the Temple was eventually built and good came out of bad. But once again I think we see that we put ourselves into God's hands, God's will, but God wants us more than just to say, 'Okay, God. Your will be done,' and get up from our knees and walk on through our activities. I think God wants us to negotiate with Him, to talk with Him, to give Him good reason to answer our prayers, to give Him good reason to close the wrong doors and to open the right one.
Let's go to 2 Kings chapter 20 we read another example here in 2 Kings chapter 20, it's the example of Hezekiah. It's another example of negotiating with God. Beginning in verse 1 of chapter 20 of 2 Kings,
2 Kings 20:1 — In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Set your house in order, for... you're going to die very soon.
Verse 2 — He turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying,
Verse 3 — "Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth... Hezekiah was a good king ...I have walked before You in truth, with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. He negotiated with God. He said, "God, I've tried to obey you.- Probably, if we can read between the lines here, "I know I haven't been perfect, haven't made all the right decisions, but I've tried real hard. I know You've been with me. I know You've guided me in my decision making but, boy, I need some help here.
Verse 4 — it happened... this is to show you how quick it works sometimes ...it happened, while Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him... so he hadn't gone very far - just a few hundred paces after pronouncing this death sentence, if you will, on Hezekiah, He said,
"Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD...verse 5 ...the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.
Verse 6 — "And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David."
For those of you who have visited the city of Jerusalem, you can see the historical evidence of this miracle by walking though Hezekiah's water tunnel, see how the city survived during those days and how Hezekiah actually lived another fifteen years because he negotiated with God.
We heard a few prayer requests at the middle of this service today. There are other prayer requests that we could certainly read about on the bulletin board and on the websites. There are many people who have unanswered prayers. My thought is that we could be very flippant about that and we could say, well there are lots of prayer requests out there, there are lots of needs and sometimes I know if you're like me, you kneel down, you're pressed for time and you say, "God, please heal all those people who need to be healed.- I wonder how effective those prayers are. After what we've read so far, do you think it might be better to isolate a few of those prayer requests, people we might even know or become acquainted with in some way, maybe even by writing them or emailing them and saying, "You know something? I'm going to negotiate with God. I'm going to reason with God about your situation.- Like my friend said, "I'm going to grab hold of the feet of God on your behalf and not let go until we get an answer.- I somehow feel it would be a lot more effective for the needs we have in the Church than just asking a general prayer, don't you after what we've read here today?
Let's go see what Christ says about this concept in Luke chapter 18. While you're turning there, when I was preparing this subject I remembered a minister many years ago told this story about how he was in the service in World War II. He was in a foxhole. His company was under bombardment and, in fact, his platoon was pinned down. Over half of his platoon mates had been killed. He was lying in the bottom of this foxhole and was literally sitting on the body of one of his comrades who had died. It was raining, mud was slipping into this foxhole, he could hear the exploding grenades flying over his head. He could actually hear the voices of the Nazi soldiers advancing on his position. He looked around and he saw wounded comrades or comrades like himself who had hardly any fight left in them and he said he prayed while he was in that foxhole, "God, if you get me out of this, when I get out of here and back home again I will look for You and I will find You and I will serve You for the rest of my life.- He then played dead and when the Nazi soldiers came to the foxhole where he was. They assumed who were there were dead and about then there was friendly fire that came in and moved the Nazi's back to their front lines again. American soldiers came in and they discovered him and a few of his platoon mates who had survived and were wounded and they took them back to the United States. He realized that he had been bargaining with God and that he needed to keep his end of the bargain. He began searching and looking, looking and searching. He went from church to church. He finally stumbled upon a radio program one day. He said, "That's the answer! That's it!- He began to pursue that and eventually was called into the ministry and served in the ministry for over 40 years before he finally died. I am sure that God remembered his negotiation because he did.
Notice here in Luke 18 this principle that Christ brings out. Luke chapter 18 and verse 1.
Lk. 18:1 — Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
It's so easy when we don't get an instant answer to our prayers because we live in an instant world, don't we? We've got fast food, we get fast services. If you're like me, you go into a bank and if you have to wait for more than 30 seconds, you get impatient. That's one thing, by the way, that our family loves about Ohio. There's hardly anybody on the highway, there's hardly anybody in the banks, there's hardly anybody in the stores. When you're from Los Angeles, this really looks like a fast place because there are a lot less people. I like that about Ohio . But we live in a fast—paced, instant world and so when we pray to God and God turns out not to be an aspirin bottle God and we don't get instant answers from Him, then we go "Oh, no. What's God doing here?- We sometimes lose heart or get impatient. This principle that Christ brings out, verse 2 He says,
Verse 2 — "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. He was kind of one of these small town judges who thought he owned the world.
Verse 3 — "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him...and said, 'get justice ...me of my adversary.'
Verse 4 — "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man... again, reading between the lines here you can tell this woman came back time and time and time and time again seeking justice. Finally, ...he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
'Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, Do we sometimes feel like we are troubling God by coming back time and time and time again and reasoning with Him and telling Him all the good reasons we think He should answer our prayer? So he said in verse 5, 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "
God is giving us a hint about prayer. He expects us to come back time after time after time and reason with Him, negotiate with Him.
Then the Lord said... verse 6 ..."Hear what the unjust judge said.
Verse 7 — "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them... sometimes?
Verse 8 — "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily...in the mind of God, maybe not so speedily in our minds. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
There seems to be a very close association between faith and our willingness to come before God again and again and again and to reason with Him and to importune Him with our prayer requests.
Let's go to Matthew chapter 15. Now this example I have read many times with great amazement about the tenacity of this Syro—Phoenician woman called a Canaanite, a Gentile, who had a demon possessed daughter and who wanted desperately for Christ to call upon her to be healed. Mat. 15 and verse 21. It was here earlier - oh, here it is.
Mat 15:21 — Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. That's the northern part of Israel. Right now it's the southern part of Lebanon which is being bombarded at the moment, perhaps even as we sit here. Along that coastal region, there were many Canaanites.
Verse 22 — And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon—possessed."
Verse 23 — And He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." She's making a lot of noise. She's becoming a pest. She follows us around, she keeps begging. Command her to go away.
Verse 24 — And He said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Not very politically acceptable to say, "Well, I'm so sorry, young lady, but I've got other things to do.- No, He said, I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel .
Verse 25 — Then she came... again...and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"
Verse 26 - And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."
Again, not very politically correct, but there was a point being made here regarding what He is saying to this woman. Commentaries even say that she probably badgered him for some length of time and even tried to go through the disciples to get to Him saying, "Hey, will you ask your Master, please answer my prayer.- When He makes this comment in verse 26, it's interesting what her response is in verse 27 — and I want you to notice how she is negotiating with Christ. He's got something she wants - the healing power of God. And she said in verse 27,
Verse 27 — "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
Verse 28 — Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Once again we find this word of faithfulness in the context of being persistent. This is a lesson Christ is teaching us about contact with Him and about our prayer. ..."O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." God's mercy is so great that sometimes it extends beyond the boundary of the peoples He is dealing directly with. We know that. And, in fact, when you look at the New Testament, the people that Christ healed were all the unconverted people, when you think about it. His mercy is so great it spills over the bucket of mercy. Another example that we find here, but I don't want to go too far astray from my point. great is your faith!... He said, "Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
I'd like to share a little speculation with you now. I don't know how many of you have heard of the composer / singer Jim Croce, but for those of you who are older you will, I see you recognize that name. He was a very gifted composer and singer who died early in his life in a plane crash and he wrote a song that is even popular among some today called Time in a Bottle. It was a love song about can you save time in a bottle. I wish I could save memories with you in a bottle and bring them out and - I won't sing it. You can relax. I'm not very good at that sort of thing. And as I was researching this subject, it dawned on me that time cannot be saved. We talk about saving time, but in reality, you can't. You know, time comes and goes, but once it goes, it's gone and we spend our time in many different endeavors of all kinds. Some of them are redeeming, some of them are just frivolous, wasting time. But there's one part of our lives in which we invest time that I believe is going to be preserved and saved and that is the time we spend in prayer negotiating and bargaining with God, reasoning with God.
I'd like to go to Revelation chapter 5 to prove my point. Again, I said I'm speculating a little bit, but I'd like you to read a couple of interesting scriptures with me because of all the time that we invest - or spend — those minutes, those hours we invest over a lifetime in prayer, it seems to me, are being held by God. I don't know how He does this and it may only be an analogy, but to me it's very interesting. In Rev. chapter 5 and verse 8, in describing in chapter 4 the role of the Father, in chapter 5 the role of the Son, Jesus Christ, it says in verse 8,
Rev 5:8 - And now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty—four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
The prayers of the saints are appeals that are made to God. You know, Christ told us to pray "Thy kingdom come-. It's as though He wants us to do that as we read earlier. He appeals to us to do that. He wants us to invest our prayer time with these heartfelt appeals and even bargaining as I hope I've illustrated in my message so far. What I read here is this analogy of our prayers being contained in a bottle or a bowl.
Turn over to chapter 8 and verse 3. When it finally comes time in the future for God to intervene in the course of human affairs, in essence to save the world from utter destruction as He says in Mat 24:21, I want you to notice Rev. 8 and verse 3.
Rev 8:3 — A nother angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
It's as though God is going to open up the container of all those prayers for six thousand years and He's going to listen to it and it's going to persuade Him in some way to intervene before man destroys himself.
Verse 4 — And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.
Verse 5 — Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.
And then the seven angels came forward who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound and God directly intervenes then in the course of human affairs. And I speculate, based upon the prayers of the saints for the past six thousand years, God values that and preserves it. It's important to Him.
Let's go to Luke 11 to conclude.
And it came to pass, as He was praying... Luke 11:1...in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." We must be taught how to pray. We teach our children to pray little, short prayers, but more than just letting your requests be known, there seems to be a methodology in how we pray and I believe from the examples that I have read, some of which I have read to you today, that God wants us to negotiate with Him. He wants us to reason with Him. He wants us to bargain with Him with those prayerful needs that we have. "Lord, teach us to pray...
And so in verse 2 He said, "When you pray, pray after this manner. And then He gave the prayer that we are very familiar with which is skeletal structure for prayer. We understand that.
Continuing on in verse 5 — And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves;
Verse 6 — 'for another friend of mine has come to me in his journey, and I have nothing to set before him';
Verse 7 — "and he will answer from within and say...'Well, don't bother me now; the door is shut, my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give... what you want.
Verse 8 — "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because it is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
It seems to me that the message Christ is trying to give in His instructions on prayer and even teaching His disciples how to pray is the need for us to be persistent, to come back time and time again, for us to reason with God, for us to negotiate with God.
Verse 9 — So I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you...but just don't ask, ask with conviction. Ask with purpose. Ask with reasonings. Negotiate, if you have to. It is possible. We read of those examples ...and you will find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Verse 10 — "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Verse 11 — "If a son asks for bread from a father among you, will you give him a rock? If he asks for a fish, would you instead give him a serpent?
Verse 12 — "If he asks for an egg, would you give him a scorpion?
Certainly not. If we ask in the right attitude and we negotiate with God, we importune Him, we are persistent, He says in verse 13,
Verse 13 — "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Brethren, God created within us the intellect to think, to reason, to bargain. God wants us to have a relationship with Him as a friend. Frankly, He wants us to talk with Him in prayer, but not just to ask, but to think, reason, and bargain with Him in the process of prayer. When we develop those habits, then I believe God will answer our prayers.