Quid Pro Quo
Have you ever tried to strike a deal with the Almighty?
Is it a wise thing to do? Many years ago, a young entrepreneur named Albert Gubay approached God with a deal: Help me with my financial troubles now and I will show my gratitude in a grand way later on in life. Well, God did and so did Mr. Gubay. Now an octogenarian, Albert Gubay established a foundation funded by nearly all of the wealth he accumulated in his lifetime: approximately 1.2 BILLION dollars. (That's what I call divine assistance.) Mr. Gubay, a lifelong Catholic, has dedicated half of his fortune to works of the Catholic Church and the other half to whatever projects the trustees would deem worth funding. Of course, he kept a few million for his own support. He never forgot the details of the bargain he made with God and he made sure that he would not leave this world without fulfilling his obligation.
Respecting one's obligations contained within a bargain with God is not always the case. Out of desperation, the bargainer might have promised changes or actions that they would find extremely difficult to fulfill. Rationalization or even denial may result from such a deal with God. An illustration of this is related in the following joke: A very anxious businessman – running late for an important meeting – was driving around the building's crowded parking lot. Exasperated, he looked up to heaven and called out to God with a bargain. The man said, "Please God! If in the next minute, you find a parking space for me, I'll go to church every Sunday, stop drinking, and spend more time with my wife and kids." The man goes around the corner and, miraculously, there was empty parking space. He raises his eyes to haven and says, "Never mind! I found one." This ingratitude and mental slight-of-hand might be more indicative of human nature than the integrity of Mr. Gubay.
Bargaining with God has Biblical precedence. In the Old Testament, Abraham enters into a bargain with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Satan's temptation of Christ unfolds as a number of bargains. Jesus teaches that we are to present to the Father all our wishes. Often, these requests and pleadings are expressed in the context of a bargain. This type of bargaining with God is neither an act of extortion nor couched in threats. It is prayer. In an article in Columbia magazine, Father Thomas Acklin states, "So, we can bargain, we can beg, we can ask, we can knock. What is important is that we keep knocking, keep opening our hearts, knowing that God just not just throw us something to satisfy us. Rather, he brings us to life along with Him, by giving us Himself. He gives us Love and Life and the Holy Spirit, and in the body and blood of his Son which we receive in the Eucharist."
What is the appropriate object of all this seeking, asking, begging, and knocking? Jesus told his disciples that they do not receive what they pray for, because they pray wrongly. Jesus told them to ask the Father and He shall send them the Holy Spirit. Christians pray for a great deal throughout their lives. Quite often they pray for some beneficial worldly gift for themselves. Typically, a fair amount of bargaining accompanies these prayers. Other prayers are beautifully altruistic and tug at one's heart. But how many times are the doors of heaven stormed with loud intercession for the gift of the Holy Spirit? The rhetorical nature of this question does not lessen the importance of each individual's answer. Prior to his arrest, Jesus prayed in the garden asking if there were any way that the Father might free him from the terrifying sacrifice he was about to make. Coming to the reality of the moment, Jesus humbly states, "Thy Will be done." This statement is the ultimate stipulation to all prayer. If not, then the prayer, the bargain, is not valid.
When prayer, or bargaining, is directed toward the alleviation of some illness or of a difficult strait regarding a loved one, accepting the Will of God may challenge one's faith. Is it not the Will of God that His love and mercy equip His people with the assurance of defeating all that would obstruct victory over the mortal necessities of life and of avoiding placing ultimate meaning in that which eventually fails? The Christian triumph is to live and to die in the Holy Spirit.
To bargain with God is to present one's self to God as open to the ways His grace can enter and transform one; the ways in which the fashioning presence and power of the Holy Spirit can affect one's life. Seek the Holy Spirit and in return the Holy Spirit leads the way to conquer the world and find an eternal reward. Not a bad bargain