Over the past weeks I have been reading a book called Influence Without Authority by Allan R. Cohen. The premise of the book is how to influence others when you do not have authority over them, such as an employee influencing a manager, or even two coworkers with equal position in the company. In both cases, one has needs and wants, but does not have the authority to make it happen.
It occurred to me that the same can be true with us and God. We do not have the power to influence God through authority alone, so how then can we get our prayers answered? There must be some way to influence God, and in fact, I believe that the lessons in the book for influencing other people also apply to us and our relationship with God, and getting answers to prayer. I will get to that shortly.
Power differences between authorities and subordinates sometimes prevent the subordinate from getting what they want or need from the authority figure. For example, an employee cannot just go to his boss and demand a pay raise without reason. However, the employee could influence the boss to give him a pay raise using certain means, such as performing well at the job, or using the currency of give and take, such as favors, in order to influence the boss.
For example, the employee could, although being in a position which does not afford him merit-based pay-raises, find a way to find out what the boss wants or needs that is outside of the employee’s normal job, but within the employee’s purview to do, such as taking the initiative on some big task, or solving a difficult problem the boss was facing. After some time of building up “credits”, the employee could then “cash in” the credits earned, by requesting – politely – a pay raise considering the added responsibilities and value they are now contributing to the role.
The inspiration for this article came from realizing that Influence Without Authority can be applied in the same way toward our relationship with God. There is no greater power discrepancy regarding mankind than between a human and God. God is the ultimate authority, and we are the ultimate subordinates, being God’s creation, the work of His own hands.
How to Influence God Without Authority
How then can a human ever hope to influence God to help or to answer prayers? To do so, we must be able to influence God despite the power discrepancy. Moreover, some lessons written in the book about how manipulation and lack of being genuine can hurt rather than help, apply all the more toward God, who not only sees our actions, but knows our motives and our innermost thoughts.
To influence God, we must be completely pure and with the most perfect of intentions. We can influence God, because God is not a genie who grants wishes, nor is he a robot or computer program bound to the laws of mathematics and science. Rather, God is a person. Not a human, but an individual with a personality. God has a character, and has the freedom to choose whom He wants to give to and whom He does not. And whether God gives or does not give, is not a matter of “fairness”, because God is the giver, and it is His to determine who to give it to.
Case in point is the parable of the man who hired laborers throughout the day for a denarius (money), and at the end of the day paid them all the same amount. Outraged, the workers who worked all day said they had worked all day, but received the same payment as the workers who worked only the last hour. “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Did you not agree with me on one denarius?'” (Matthew 20:13) God does not hold human standards of “fairness”, because as the parable said, “Do I not have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)
Therefore it is evident that God, having every right to do so, does not see fit to distribute to each person equally, but rather is generous to give to whomever He pleases whatever He pleases. God is a real being with a mind and free will, and with the ultimate level of authority, having created all things. Therefore if we want something more than what God has already distributed, then I believe, and this is my opinion, that either we must realize why we do not need that thing, or we must find a way to, in the purest and perfect way, influence God without authority.
How then can we influence Almighty God without authority? We know that God is a loving God, and that God is willing to give good things to us (see Matthew 7:11). We also know that there are things God wants, because God is not a machine, He is a personal being with the most creative mind in existence. God wants many things, and part of the reason, or I daresay, the entire reason we are on Earth, is to serve God and to provide for God things that God wants.
Does God Want Anything From Us?
We know for a fact that God wants things from us because the Bible says so. The parable of the talents showed three servants, one given 10 talents (a form of money), one given 5, and one given only 1 talent. It may be a coincidence that it can be metaphorically correlated with our God-given “talents”, that is gifts and abilities – or maybe it was God who knew that it would become our language one day. But I digress.
The ones given 10 and 5 talents doubled it, and they were told they did well and were given many responsibilities, according to that which they had earned. But the man who had one talent hid it in the ground, and the master said to him, “You wicked, lazy servant”, and “Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it back with interest” (Matthew 25:26-27).
Likewise, it is expected that we should take what we have been given and provide something of value back to the Master who gave it to us. Our gifts and abilities, intelligence, capabilities, or even so far as our material needs – and this is not a lesson on tithing, although my suggestion would be to be generous to the poor, not to wealthy churches – so that we “bear fruit”, as the Bible says.
The metaphor is as a fruit tree that you plant – if it did not bear any fruit, what value would it have? You would tear it out and plant a different one. And this is exactly what the Bible says in John 15:2, “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful.”
Therefore it is clear and evident in the Bible that God wants things from us. I believe it grieves God for us to go about our daily lives without a thought about God and what He wants. Why then did He put on on this Earth, if we bear no fruit, if we do nothing for Him?
What Currencies Does God Value?
The question to ask, then, is: what “currencies” are valuable to God? Fortunately, the Bible tells of these answers. One such currency is giving to the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says, “Kindness to the poor is a loan to the LORD, and He will repay the lender.” What better way to build up “credits” with God, in order to be able to influence God to answer our prayers, then this! The Bible gives us one very clear way to build our our relationship with God. Yet, beware to not give out of arrogance, pride, or a haughty spirit! Else, your charity will be rejected by God like Cain’s gift was rejected.
Remember this, and this is vital: you cannot manipulate God with vain gifts, because we can see that God rejects un-perfect gifts, because this is what He did with Cain. Both Cain and Abel, brothers and sons of Adam and Eve, brought God gifts. Abel brought the best of his flock, and Cain the best (presumably) of his fields; but God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:3-5).
Why did God reject Cain’s offering? Because Cain was wicked in his heart. We know this because Cain’s next action was to commit the first murder and kill his brother. This proves that less-than-perfect gifts will be rejected, so you must present offerings to God that are from a perfect heart. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), said Jesus.
There are many other ways to build up such credits with God. Remember, it is critical that, especially with God above all, you have the most pure of heart and intentions. Just like the book “Influence Without Authority” suggests when addressing managers and bosses, we can use the same principles to apply to our relationship with God. Some of these “currencies” include spending our time with God in prayer and giving thanks.
God Wants Praise & Gratefulness
Have you ever prayed and in that prayer only thanked God and not asked Him for anything? Imagine God hearing a million prayers every minute and one of them stands out – there is no request, just a selfless thanks. How valuable this prayer is to God! God would be so joyed to receive such a prayer. I would encourage you to try sometimes simply praying to God and only offering praise and thanks, with no requests. God is a personal being after all.
Imagine you had a child, and that child never offered you any sort of praise or thanks without asking for something. How well would you value that praise? Not very much, and you might begin to question the motives of that child, and see them as selfish and self-serving, only thinking about their own needs, and not yours. You might not even trust their praise, because it would come off as not genuine and with hidden motives.
I believe this is how God feels a lot of the time with most of us. Most of us just treat God like some being in the sky who they hope gives them something, not a wonderful and loving God who deserves all praise even for our very lives and existence. Even if your life is not great, there are things that every person can be thankful for, even if it is your eyesight or ability to hear or walk. Some people don’t have all of these, but most have at least one. If you have no sensation at all, well, you would certainly not be reading this article; but there is no human on Earth like that.
Therefore, praise and admiration, songs to God and genuine thankfulness for the good things that you do have, these are valuable to God. We know this because there is an entire book of Psalms that is mostly dedicated to the praise of God. I am sure that David built up a lot of “credits” with God over his years by his tendency to sing and praise so often and as such as part of his nature. I am sure that God loved this.
God Values Faith & Trust In Him
Speaking of David, you cannot think of David without finding another major currency that God values. Faith. The ability to set aside your own fears and your own wants and needs and step out into danger because God has asked you to or to stand up for God, and you have faith that God will protect you. This is what David demonstrated by putting even his own life in peril, by as a little shepherd boy stepping out to fight a giant who was cursing God and making a fool of the people of God.
David defeated Goliath with a few pebbles from a sling. His reward? He ultimately became the King of Israel and was immortalized into the scriptures for all time for this great act. The bigger the act of genuine faith, and the greater the risk, the bigger the reward.
Like the book describes, you do not build up credits for the sole purpose of building credits. You do not do favors for people solely because you want something – it comes off as not genuine and hurts your cause more than it helps it. It is that much more with God. You cannot manipulate God, because God knows your intentions. To influence others, you must genuinely find something they need and help them with it when it is within your purview and abilities to do so. At work, they call it going “above and beyond”.
Likewise, you can do the same for God. Rather than only do the things that please God when it comes upon you to do so, such as singing praises only when at church, or giving to the poor only when you happen to see them by the side of the road and they approach your car, instead go out of your way to help God.
Building A True Relationship With God
Do you really think God will not reward you so many times when you do anything for Him with a genuine heart? Of course God will, and many times at that, but you do not give to God to get something from God, you give to God because you love God, and God, seeing your pure heart, will shower you with blessings, because it is a true relationship and God does great things for those whom He loves.
There are many things you can do that God wants from you. This is the way that you build any relationship – by seeing the other’s needs and finding a way to provide value into their lives. If you can find a way to provide value into other people’s lives, then you will receive value in return, if your motives were pure.
Likewise, if you provide value to God, then in return for your faithfulness and the fruit you provide, God will provide blessings, and correction (because God corrects those whom He loves: Hebrews 12:6), and protection, and all the good things. It does not mean your life will be perfect, but it does mean that you will have an eternal place with God, but in addition to your eternal place, God will also bless you in this life.
Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matthew 19:29-30).
Serve God, and Be Rewarded
Some of the currencies of God are faithfulness, integrity, obedience, a pure heart, goodness, kindness, mercy and forgiveness toward others, generosity, praise and admiration, self-denial (such as fasting), and doing good work for the glory of God.
If you do these with a genuine heart, then over time you will build up a strong relationship so much that God may one day cause the whole Earth to stand still for you, like He did with King Hezekiah. (See: Does God Answer Prayer? Learn from King Hezekiah and King Saul).
What are the limits of God? None! What good things God has in store for you if you bear good fruit for His sake. Each day, think about ways that you can build up your relationship with God. Think about the currencies that God values, and find ways to please God by providing these currencies to God.
When the time comes that you do need something, after doing so much for God, and you pray and ask for it with a pure heart and good intentions, do you think God will not move heaven and Earth to make it happen for you? Of course He will! For He promises it: “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Why Is Prayer Not Being Answered?
Remember this, because God is a personal being, and desires things from you. If your prayers are not being answered, ask yourself three things: 1. Are your intentions truly pure? 2. What have you done for God over the years to influence God to want to answer this request of yours? And lastly, 3. Is this request of yours in line with the will of God?
If your intentions are not pure or you are not bearing fruit, then your prayers are unlikely to be answered. But if your intentions are pure and you are bearing much fruit for God, then in many cases it is probably only a matter of time before God answers your request – in His own timing, so be patient.
God is not a genie nor a machine, though, so He has no obligation to answer your prayers; but He does love those who are obedient to do His will. Many times God will choose to answer prayers when it fits His will for your life and His will for the world.
Bear great fruits for God, and watch as the blessings are poured out and overflowing so that your “cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Go, and please God!