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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : You Can’t Make a Deal With God » You Can’t Make a Deal With God

You Can’t Make a Deal With God

Don - November 6, 2007

Have you heard it in your testimoney meetings – where the person tell of their experience. They promised God that they would do something if He would help them thru something, or bless them with something etc. And they tell it as a very spiritual, faith promoting experience.

I tend to want to do this myself. I think to myself, I’ll start to keep the commandments better, I’ll study my scriptures more, I won’t miss daily prayers, I’ll quit swearing….or whatever. And if I do that then I need, I want, please bless me with…..

For those who think you can make a deal with God, you can’t!! God can offer to make a deal with you, a covenant, but unless you accept it, and keep its (God’s) terms, it doesn’t work either.

Here’s how I perceive deal making with God: I make the offer, God accepts my sincere – faith motivated offer, and blesses me as to the terms of the deal. If that were true then I’m manipulating God. Oh, sure He has His agency to accept my deal but think about the consequences if He does. To be a just and fair God, He would then have to accept deal making offers from others in a similar situation. Where does He draw the line? Yes, for you because you have 8% more faith than the last one who wanted to make a deal. No, for me because my deal didn’t contain quite enough sacrifice (3% short) on my part to be a good trade.

I don’t think God is in the deal making business. I think He’s in the covenant making business, and there’s a big difference.

How have your “deals” with God turned out?


  1. When we’ve prayed for things we wanted as a family to happen, we haven’t made any deals. But we do say that we’ll do our best to be close to the Spirit, praying, reading scriptures, etc. We figure if we’re doing everything we should be, then if it doesn’t happen, it’s purely God’s will that it shouldn’t, and not just that we weren’t doing everything we could.

    Comment by Susan M — November 6, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  2. I’m with you on this Don. It used to drive me crazy on my mission when I would hear someone suggest we draft our own “covenants” with the Lord to do certain things in exchange for finding people to teach or some such nonsense.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 6, 2007 @ 11:16 am

  3. Isn’t bargaining one of the steps in the grieving process?

    Comment by danithew — November 6, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  4. Genesis 18:20-33
    Sounds like deal-making to me…

    Comment by BiV — November 6, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  5. You can make deals with the Lord. You can ask “This is what I want. What do I do to get that?” And if what you desire is a righteous desire, inspiration will come. God is not a vending machine, but a real person who really wants to help.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 6, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  6. I like the idea of working out personal covenants with God, provided that you do so with the direction of the Spirit and with a humble attitude. Certainly you can’t just think up a deal and have God accept it, but I think God wants us to strive to find out his will and make personal covenants with him. I don’t see it as us manipulating God, I see it more as us trying to find out the will of God in our own lives and making solemn promises to him. While they probably aren’t as binding or anywhere near as official as the universal covenants we make through the church, I think they show God we are trying to not be slothful and wait for him to tell us every covenant we should make.

    Comment by austin smith — November 6, 2007 @ 11:26 am

  7. Well, Don, if that’s the case, then Elder Maxwell did something wrong.

    Comment by Cheryl — November 6, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  8. p.s. He is not the only apostle to have made such a promise during war…

    Comment by Cheryl — November 6, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  9. A couple years ago I wanted a MacBook so I could run Windows at the same time. I didn’t make a covenant or any of that, but I did tell God that if I was able to get it (through work), I’d commit myself to working on extraction each day. A few weeks later, I got the MacBook, and held up my end of the deal.

    That doesn’t imply that I wouldn’t have gotten the laptop w/o the promise, but hey, you never know… :)

    Comment by Connor — November 6, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  10. Awesome story, Connor. I’m going to steal it for next fast Sunday. :)

    I’m not sure we need to think of expressions of renewed determination to live a righteous life born of gratitude (or even desperation for that matter) as necessarily wheeling and dealing with God the same way you do with your mom or the car salesman.

    Comment by Peter LLC — November 6, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  11. Deal-making with God has always interested me. On the one hand, how can we bargain with God? I mean, he’s the main Man, the Supreme Being. Is it presumptuous of me to say “I’ll do this for you IF you do this for me”? BIV mentioned Abraham and Sodom. Abraham kept proposing deals that the Lord went along with, even though he knew Abraham wasn’t going to succeed. Was it a lesson that Abraham had to learn?

    Another aspect of this deal-making deal (pun intended) is when we say I”ll never do such and such again if you’ll bail me out of such and such. An example: A man addicted to porn slips and is afraid his wife will find out. He’s promised her to high heaven he’ll never do it again. Can he make a deal with God that he’ll truly reform if she just doesn’t find out, thereby keeping his family together for hopefully one more chance?

    I used to read of the “wrestle” Enos had with God for a remission of his sins. That sounded like deal-making. Then I read it closer, he had a wrestle BEFORE God, implying to me that the wrestle Enos had was with himself, changing his attitudes and beliefs (broken heart, contrite spirit, etc.) to make his deal acceptable to God.

    And then there’s the level of the deal-making. Is He more apt to agree to a deal to find the lost car keys than get a coveted job?

    Let’s make a Deal!

    Comment by John — November 6, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  12. I’ve always thought of the made deals in the scriptures as people becoming so in tune with the Spirit that they align their desires to God’s. One example is why Enos prayed that a record be preserved for the Lamanites’ descendants and not the Nephites’.

    I have a hard time holding the Supreme Giver of all things to some deal of mine. He’s given me everything and asked me to ASK FOR whatever I desire, not hold Him to an agreement. If someone gave a gift, would you tell them they owed you another gift if you gave them one? Or if you promised to use that gift a certain way? I’m sure there’s loopholes to this argument but you get what I mean, right?

    Comment by Bret — November 6, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  13. BiV, I think Abraham’s “deal” with God was a bit different than what I was talking about. Abraham didn’t make a personal promise to be good if God would spare the city. Abraham was testing God to see if He would destroy the city if there were righteous people there.

    Cheryl, the Maxwell example is certainly an example of exactly what I’m talking about! How many soldiers made the same deal with God and were killed? Why did Maxwell’s “deal” work and so many others who made the same deal, with probably the same faith and intent get killed? Was Maxwell spared because of the “deal” or because of his foreordaination to be an apostle?

    I guess his story is uplifting to think that God would have spared his life because of the deal, but quite depressing for those who made the same deal and were killed.

    Comment by Don — November 6, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

  14. Bret, maybe that’s what the Lord means in D&C 121:45–that at some point, we can actually gain the “confidence” (boldness? temerity?) to ask God for even MORE than He’s already given us.

    My mission was very big on Grant von Harrison’s book, Drawing Upon the Powers of Heaven, and its principles of “covenant-making”. It got to the point where an AP actually accused me of “sinning” for not having attained my baptismal “goal” (read: quota) for the week.

    Obviously, I don’t put much stock in Harrison’s idea of a “covenant” insomuch as a) it discounts the agency of parties who are not involved in the covenant, and b) it amounts to an attempt to submit God to our will, rather than vice versa. And I was tickled pink when our new mission president announced that, per Elder Scott’s specific instructions, the “covenant-making” method of goal-setting was being discontinued.

    On the other hand, there’s enough scriptural precedent that I’m convinced it’s possible, on some level, to make some sort of “deal” with God whereby something is attained that would not otherwise have been attained.

    Comment by JimD — November 6, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  15. In a way we can make a deal with God. Blessings are predicated upon obedience to a law – understand and obey that particular law and obtain that particular blessing, right?

    Comment by Daylan — November 6, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

  16. Don’s point is correct, but the title of the post is unfortunate. Of course we can make a deal with God–we just have to accept his terms and we have a deal. But we cannot set the terms ourselves. Those who believe they have successfully set the terms in a deal with God are mistaken. They have merely stumbled across the terms that God had already set for them.

    Comment by Last Lemming — November 7, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  17. Don-
    I think you’re right about the foreordination. Of course, there’s always the message about “many are called, but few are chosen” as well. I’m sure God knows (since He knows all) who is actually sincere in their “deals” and who is not. I’m not saying that any other soldier who made those deals wouldn’t have done a good job, but perhaps they were needed elsewhere. And, of course, isn’t giving one’s life one of the ultimate of sacrifices and services unto God? I don’t know. Too many questions. I think I like Last Lemming’s comment, though. That makes the most sense…

    Comment by Cheryl — November 7, 2007 @ 8:26 am

  18. I agree that the term “make a deal” gives a negative connotation to the principle of exercising increased faith in order to receive greater blessing.

    Obviously, there are times the Lord has to say “no”. However, I have learned that many a times there are things that he indeed wishes to bless us with but we are required to either ask for it first, or else live a principle that will qualify us for that blessing.

    I have read Von Harrison’s book and when I have applied the principles he discusses in his book, I have seen miracles occur in my life. Setting goals for myself in combination with prayer has helped me to exercise faith. I think it also is a way of showing Heavenly Father how important the desired blessing is to me and what lengths I am willing to go to receive it. When the desired blessing was received, I know that I had much greater gratitude and appreciation for it. It has proved to strengthen my testimony immeasurably.

    I can see that using the knowledge contained in Von Harrison’s book in the mission field and then chastizing missionaries for not reaching goals, would be a misuse. However, I would hate for that whole book to be condemned because one MP misused the information.

    If certain actions did not make our prayers more efficacious than why have been instructed to at times combine fasting with prayer? Or why do we have temple prayer rolls for that matter? Shouldn’t just one simple prayer be enough then? To me, this whole “dealmaking” idea is not much different than those.

    Comment by AJ — November 7, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  19. I do not know if it is possible to make a ‘deal’ with God. From a legal standpoint, both sides have to agree.

    So you could ‘offer’ God a deal, “I’ll do x if you do y”. I am sure the Supreme Being has his agency as well. unless you get a response where the you are informed the ‘deal’ is accepted, you really have not made any deals.

    Merely receiving what you made a ‘deal’ for does not necessarily mean your ‘deal’ was accepted.

    Comment by Woody — November 7, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  20. That’s why I think the whole use of the word “deal” is a poor one.

    Comment by AJ — November 7, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

  21. AJ–

    FWIW, it wasn’t just in one mission where Drawing on the Powers of Heaven has been misused. Two or three adjacent missions in Brazil, at least, had the same issue, and if you google the book you’ll see a couple of references to it by ex-mormons who served in Germany.

    Comment by JimD — November 8, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  22. JimD,

    I think the real problem here has something to do with the attitude of the MP’s involved. It’s a shame. I’ve noticed that the church has improved a lot in it’s execution of the missionary program in recent years and I sure hope I am right about that.
    I don’t agree with chastizing missionaries for not meeting goals unless it’s because they have been totally goofing off. I also agree that one cannot pray away other’s agencies.

    There is a lot more to the book than just what is being discussed here. If my memory serves me correctly, I think the author also talks about being very specific in one’s prayers. That made a big impression on me and changed the way I pray.

    Anyway, I always feel sad when I hear those types of mission stories. I agree it’s disillusioning. I just don’t agree that it’s purely the fault of that one book, but I suppose if I had had your experience it would have left a bad taste in my mouth as well.

    Comment by AJ — November 8, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  23. Don,

    I haven’t read the comments but I think you are completely wrong in this post. I can’t speak for you, but I and others can and have made deals with God.

    If that were true then I’m manipulating God.

    This is just a silly statement. If you offer God terms and he accepts them then there is no manipulation involved at all. Of course we can’t force God to accept the terms we offer but he is free to accept any deal we might come up with.

    Where does He draw the line?

    I dunno. Ask him. But if he is free to choose then he can decide where to draw lines himself.

    I do think God is very much in the deal making business. We call them covenants in the church and last time I checked he is all for covenants.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  24. Geoff, God is in the deal making business, but He’s the one who makes the rules, and then they are called covenants, you don’t make the rules.

    If He accepts some deal you propose then to be a just God He has to accept my deal…all things being equal. Like my post said where’s the cut off, you have 2% more faith than me so you get the deal and I don’t.

    Comment by Don — November 8, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  25. Don: If He accepts some deal you propose then to be a just God He has to accept my deal…

    Huh? What are you talking about Don? Are you saying God must accept every deal that is offered to him? That is just silly.

    God can accept or reject any deal he wants just like we can. It all depends on the terms.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 26, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  26. Don: all things being equal

    All things can never be equal in personal relationships. I can never be you for instance. But I do agree that God is no respecter of persons and thus he does not show unfair favoritism in the type of deals he is willing to accept. But the truth is that most people don’t even have enough faith/belief to propose deals to God. If we don’t ask we are 100% certain not to receive a deal with God. I believe that is why Jesus told us to ask and seek for these kinds of favors/interventions as Christians.

    7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    (Matt 7: 7)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 26, 2007 @ 1:36 pm

  27. #26 I think you said it best! Wonderful!

    Comment by Jared — November 27, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  28. I am surprised I am posting a comment as I usually never do, but it is 1:52 a.m. and my nine (9) year old has surgery in the morning and I am desperately seeking answers. She was diagnosed with leukemia four months ago and we have been fighting it every day. We have seen the ‘whites of its eyes’. We have had an unusual amount of setbacks including seizures, blot clots, and a stroke. We have been in and out of the PICU.

    I have five kids, a loving beautiful wife, good neighbors, understanding clients, and serve in church leadership, but here I am wondering…wondering what this is all about. Embarrassed actually.

    I have never doubted God’s existence nor his involvement in our lives. I have simple faith. Nothing fancy. Nothing overly impressive. I do love the Lord. I truly love him. I am, however, reaching…I must be honest, I am struggling to feel as one with him.

    There she lies on her bed within her beauty beyond description. Her head without hair nor blemish. Her heart full of love. In the fetal position and above her monitors of pulse and pressures. Four pumps delivering IV meds shine a faint emerald light. Here I am gazing on my beautiful, pure daughter, wondering. Wondering what this is all about.

    I have appreciated the comments in this string. I have asked God what can I do to take away the pain…to take away her suffering. Silence. Am I worthy? He has said he will come quickly. He has said he is a God of miracles. She qualifies. Do I? Maybe not. I don’t know. You ask yourself, “is it me that withholds her blessings?” Am I the unprofitable servant? I taste the bitter cup’s contents every day and do not resent God for it. I do however hate the taste and wonder how she and I can continue on.

    The fire is hot. My character stretched. Tonight I feel the recoil and hear the snap. I kneel along her bedside and plead with God to hear me. To hear me. I plead to know his will and pray it is for her to stay with us. Silence. I hear the negative pressure filter and the sounds of the keypad clicking away. She sighs as she rolls over. I reflect on her first breath the breath of life. Tears flush my eyes as I have so much anxiety about tomorrow.

    I wish with all my heart I could make a deal with God and the scripture quickly fills my mind “oh yea of little faith”. He indeed wept bitterly as the cock crowed. He sat on his knees wondering what happened. In loneliness. Why? How? Anger, disbelief, and acceptance. What was it that gave him peace to move forward? Reconciliation. Redemption. Reuniting.

    Here am I. A man. Simple. Plain. Humbled. Still wondering, but waiting…

    Comment by Sean — December 5, 2008 @ 1:55 am

  29. Sean,

    Thank you for writing about your daughter. I prayed for you and her. Tell me how it went.


    Comment by Rob — December 12, 2008 @ 10:46 am

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