Praying the Lottery?

The Rev. John Newton, the 19th Century pastor an author of Amazing Grace, fell into the temptation of playing the lottery in his day. It was shortly after he was married, and he was called back to his ship, where he was a captain. It so pained him that he was leaving his new bride, that he decided to play the lottery in the hopes of winning, and not having to return to sea.

He writes about his prayers to the LORD over this. (Please note, the way he phrases things is unfamiliar to our ears. But work through it. It’s worth it):

“This prayer includes all that I at that time knew how to ask for; and had not the LORD given me more than I then knew how to ask or think, I should now be completely miserable. The prospect of this separation was terrible to me as death: to avoid it, I repeatedly purchased a tack in the lottery; thinking, ‘Who knows but I may obtain a considerable prize, and be there by saved from the necessity of going to sea?'”

We have all felt the same way, although, probably over different issues. We have a desire to win the lottery so that we may be free of having to work, and be able to do what we want to do. Sadly, today’s modern evangelical would probably say: “but doesn’t God want me to be happy? And winning the lottery would certainly make me happy.”

That is not what Newton discovered.

“Happy for me, the lot, which I then considered as casual, was at thy disposal. The money, which I could not with prudence have spared at the time, was lost: all my tickets proved blanks, thought I attempted to bribe Thee, by promising, if I succeeded, to give a considerable part to the poor.”

Sound familiar? How many of us have thought the same thing?

Now the surprise.

“But these blanks were truly prizes. Thy mercy sent me to sea against my own will. To thy blessing, and to my solitary sea-hours, I was indebted for all my temporal comforts and future hopes.”

He was realizing God’s blessings in not winning the lottery were much greater than the promises of riches.

“Thou wert pleased likewise to disappoint me, by Thy providence, of some money which I expected to receive on my marriage; so that, excepting our apparel, when I sailed from Liverpool on my first voyage, the sum total of my worldly inventory was–seventy pounds in debt.”

Like many believers, he was thinking God was about to open the door of material wealth in his life because he was now married. He was expecting, smooth sailing, so to speak. But that wasn’t what the LORD gave him. He would go on to write that this separation caused him to become more dedicated in prayer, and he began a period of self-denial, “which I was afterwards taught to improve a better purpose.”

God saying “no” to us concerning creature comforts, should be the norm, and we should rejoice that He denies our every whim. It reminds us of what is truly important: our fellowship with Him. The greatest gift for the Christian is not worldly goods, fellowship with other believers, or even heaven itself. Those things are truly His blessing to us. But the greatest gift for the Christian, is Christ. He is the pearl of great price. He is worthy of all other things. Those other things are good and a blessing, but not compared to Christ Himself.  He is our real treasure and in Him, are over flowing.

Is This Our Hope?

31 Chances? Really?

There are no “chances” with God’s Sovereign certainty. Which means, you really only need to play it once, to find out His will for you. That’s all it takes. If you lose, you know He didn’t want you to win.


Broken Dreams

Found in the trash on the way out the door. That should be a warning to those who think it might be different for them. Those who bought the Tylenol were better off than those who bought the tickets.

All photos are Copyright © Timothy J. Hammons 2021.

Categories: TheologyTags: , ,


  1. I remember learning about John Newton in Sunday School. Thanks for spreading a good reminder.


  2. I love the title of your post!


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