Twisting God’s arm?

March 2, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 12:51 pm   Category: Foreknowledge,Personal Revelation,Theology

In Sunday school this week I used the term “twisting God’s arm” as a way of describing the process of petitioning the Lord with enough fervency and faith (and sometimes through enough people) to get a mighty miracle. It was a tongue-in-cheek reference and I qualified this term by mentioning God wants his arm twisted in this way by his children. But I have decided that twisting his arm is not the proper analogy for this process.

After the events of the last week this subject is very much on my mind. When our family needed a miracle I talked with my little girls (ages 5 and 7) and asked them to nag their Heavenly Father about it. They understand what nagging is because they use it with us (though rarely successfully… we hope). The idea resonated with them, but I don’t think that analogy works well either. If nagging is as annoying to God as it is to me it can’t be a good thing. And the same thing applies to the term occasionally used in the church: “wearying the Lord”. This sounds like another term for nagging to me. Are we really out to annoy our God?

Most of us turn to bartering when we really need something from God. I like negotiating – I do it for a living. I’ve had great success strictly observing the Covey-ism “win/win or no deal”. This means unless everyone wins in a deal it should not be struck. But negotiating with God is generally frowned upon in the church, though I’m not sure it should be. As the hymn says “Sacrifice brings forth the blessing of heaven”. And as Elder Maxwell repeatedly preached – there is one thing that we can offer God that he desperately wants:

In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
(Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22)

Just tonight I heard a moving story. A man who works with my brother-in-law up in Seattle confided that he had prayed fervently for my son upon hearing of our calamity last week. He offered up a few years of his own life as an offering or sacrifice to God if it would allow for my boy to be saved. This man has no idea who we are. He is not LDS. But he is a son of God and I can’t believe God can ignore such charity.

My feeling is that if we are to bargain with the Lord we need to understand his currency. I’ve mentioned before that his currency is the souls of humankind. That is the most precious commodity in the universe. If we want to bargain with God we had better bring something he wants to the negotiations. According to Elder Maxwell we have only one thing to offer – our wills.

Maybe that’s why I felt so driven to seek more prayers here and everywhere… Maybe we weren’t nagging God or twisting his arm at all but as a group we were paying him in his currency. We were humbling ourselves and turning our wills over to him. We were exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps he was well paid in his currency for this miracle.

Of course the kicker of it all is that we all were generously rewarded immediately by him as well.

The ultimate win/win deal…

PS – Regarding our miracle: A firefighter that was first on the scene last week stopped by the house tonight to see Quinn with his own eyes. He told us that in his 14 years on the job (here in Arizona – the land of a million pools) he had only seen 3 children come out intact from the condition he found our Q in…
PPS — I’m sorry if all these posts regarding our miracle are tiresome… They feel important to me right now.


  1. Some how nagging isn’t the right word for me either. Sometimes I feel we need to pray over and over for the same thing to show God how sincere we really are. If we ask once and that’s all, how sincere is that.

    When we plead, and petition and pray often God and we both know how important it is.

    When others pray on our behalf, whether known or unkown by us, it increases that importance. That’s one reason I feel the prayer rolls in the temple work.

    Go ahead, “weary the Lord” then we and He knows what’s really important to us. 

    Posted by don

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 12:31 am

  2. By the way Geoff, there were a lot of prayers of thankfulness, given after we heard of your miracle.

    Comment by don — March 3, 2005 @ 12:33 am

  3. It worked for Martin Harris. 

    Posted by Kim Siever

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 9:08 am

  4. I think it depends on the situation, but it also depends on how much faith you’re demonstrating. Sometimes praying over and over for the same thing is demonstrating a lack of faith. Other times it’s demonstrating how badly we want what we’re asking for, I guess.

    I went through a period of years during which my husband was inactive. I prayed every night that he’d just come to church the following Sunday. I thought, if he just came once…And then I read something on the Internet by either a GA or a sister in the RS GP who said if we had a righteous desire, we should give the Lord a deadline for it. And I realized that by praying every night for it, I was really not exercising faith. I was just nagging.

    Our oldest son’s 8th birthday was coming up, and I really wanted his father to be able to baptize him. And I realized that if I prayed for just that one thing, all these other things would have to fall into place for it to happen, and by a certain date. So I prayed for that. And I told God straight out that I was not going to pray about it again. I was going to put it in His hands and not worry about it anymore. If it could happen at all, it would, and if not, then I’d deal with it.

    About two weeks later my husband came home from work and told me he wanted to start going to church again. And he had quit smoking. It took him awhile longer to give up coffee, but he did, and he’s been active ever since. And he was able to baptize our son.

    I didn’t tell him until later about how I’d prayed for him. He mentioned recently that he always used to enjoy cigarettes, and the reason he quit was one day he lit one up, and it tasted really bad to him. He put it out and never had one again. 

    Posted by Susan Malmrose

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 9:22 am

  5. Wow Susan! That is an amazing story. I think it is very intructive about the process of getting a miracle. It appears that there is a certain amount of real faith that must be generated in order to allow miracles to be granted. This is probably why even Christ couldn’t perform miracles in some faithless towns in his ministry. Your change in approach must have made a difference in the level of faith generated.

    I think I need to do some research and a follow up post on the “evidence to our minds” part of faith. It sounds like that good counsel you read helped provide more evidence to help you generate sufficient faith to allow you to be a miracle worker…

    Thank you for sharing that story. 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

  6. I would second Susan and restate your our premise Geoff: The currancy of God is Faith. I just came across this with my wife:

    D&C 42:
    49 He who hath faith to see shall see.

    50 He who hath faith to hear shall hear.

    51 The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.

    52 And they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons; and inasmuch as they break not my laws thou shalt bear their infirmities.

    What I love about this is that God is saying that it is okay to not have enough faith (becasue I surely don’t). 

    Posted by J. Stapley

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

  7. Don: Good points. I wonder if the process of wearying the Lord is mostly us deciding if the request is really important enough to us… Perhaps we decide if it is worth trading some of our sins for or not (like King Lamoni’s father did ). Good point about the gratitude too. The last hours of my fasting came after the doctors had given us the good news. I felt it wouldn’t be right to end the fast without devoting the hardest parts of it to gratitude.

    Kim: Also a good point. It goes to show that nagging isn’t a good thing even when we get what we are asking for. 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 1:12 pm

  8. Nice citation J. Faith to get one thing is not necessarily the same faith needed to ask for and get another. This also gets back to your excellent posts on how cultures can nuture or suppress expectations and faith. 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

  9. Might I ask what you all think about how all this squares with The parable of the unjust judge . It seems to imply that if the unjust judge can be moved by persistent inquiries, your Father in Heaven will definitely be moved. 

    Posted by John C.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  10. He will be, if you’re praying with faith.

    Be careful what you ask for. :) 

    Posted by Susan Malmrose

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  11. Good point John.

    The 116 manuscript pages example has already been mentioned here as an example of nagging working. As Susan says, we ought to be careful what we ask for. Interestingly, it seems in the parable the widow is asking for a just and righteous thing of the unjust judge. I suspect we could ask until doomsday for evil things and never get them. It’s those in-betweeners that aren’t completely clear. Also as Susan mentioned I suspect that faith is the key and that repetition persistence work mostly because they help increase our faith. So while heavenly answers might correlate with nagging the Lord, they are not necessarily caused by the nagging.  

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — March 3, 2005 @ 7:55 pm

  12. I like Enos’ use of the word *wrestle*. I really had to wrestle in the spirit before I obtained a testimony. In retrospect, I think that it was because I needed more than a burning feeling to convince me to change my life. That early exercise in striving for the spirit has greatly benefited me in later years. I can readily recognize the spirit and know how to get myself into a receptive state.

    I find the concept of negotiating with the Lord interesting. It reminds me of Abraham bartering with the Lord over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Posted by Floyd the Wonder Dog

    Comment by Anonymous — March 7, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  13. Good citation Floyd. I had that Abraham story in mind before I wrote the post but somehow got sidetracked and didn’t use it. I think we can have much more influence over God’s decisions than we generally think. But that makes sense in some ways — our adversary doesn’t want any of us actually getting in the habit of asking and receiving from God. Satan probably wants us fatalistically floating through life chanting “it was meant to be, it was meant to be” 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — March 7, 2005 @ 1:47 pm

  14. […] ht. Why? Because he was not going to quit until He got what he was after. Perhaps he was twisting God’s arm as we have discussed before. He was not going to stop until God granted his righteous des […]

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  15. […] a barter deal. I have opined that God does like striking a good deal in the past and that we ought to figure out his currency if we want miracles. This story seems to show that sometimes he will even prop […]

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