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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prayer Posts and Prayer Dares #9

Continuing with our conversations on prayer, let’s dive into prayer and God’s will.

I once heard a story about how Adam and Ever prayed for days in the garden (pre-fall) over what they should eat for dinner. They went on prayer retreats, spent time apart from one another praying, prayer journaled, prayed together, etc. but never came up with “God’s will” for their dinner. The point of the story was that God told them to eat “anything” from the garden—just not “that” tree. At the end of the story they settled on fruit salad since God wasn’t giving “clear” answers.

This imaginary scenario/story is typical of the way many of us approach “God’s will” for our lives. It’s the same kind of approach that some people have when they are looking for a job or a spouse.

However, we can find no clear evidence in the Bible that God is in the business of revealing a “perfect choice” for us through prayer. Some choices are better than others. Some choices are definitely wrong.

Sure, there are stories throughout scripture where God physically showed up and revealed His desire for someone but we need to put that in a different category.

I do strongly believe however, God IS revealing His will to us and HAS revealed His will to us in many ways.

For instance, God HAS revealed His moral will to us in scripture. Whenever there is a crisis or one finds himself or herself at in impasse or quandary, it is safe to say a good spot to check first is with the Bible—where God has already revealed and communicated a moral standard.

If your friend is wondering if he should start having an affair with his neighbor—no prayer is needed. Answer=no.

I actually had a conversation with a gal recently who wondered if it was God’s will for her to pursue an affair because she saw so many “godly” qualities in this other man who seemed to be her “soul mate.” Ummm . . . no.

When it comes to making choices, we can know some things with absolute certainty:

• God does not contradict himself.
• God will not move us to do anything contrary to scripture.

There may be any number of choices and dreams we could pursue in life that may be “in God’s will” for us.

You can pick any job in the world—just not “that” one.

You can have any spouse that may reciprocate your love and your wooing—just not “that” one.

We can also safely operate by the proverbial ideas:

• There is safety in a multitude of counsel (Proverbs 11:14)
• Being open to correction is a way to wisdom (Proverbs 19:20)

In many ways, the OT prophets were “tested” by this logic and this instruction. When someone stuck their head up and said, “thus sayeth the Lord” they were opening themselves up to the testing and scrutiny of scripture and of the community.

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and other passages specifically warn about messages or dreams that contradict scripture

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
Deuteronomy 18 teaches the prophet’s words must come to pass. Prophet posing presented some pretty harsh risks.
19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."
21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
In reality, we are seldom faced with the kinds of “false dreams and visions” that the above scripture is warning us about. Though history has shown the church and the world abroad plenty of “crazy” visions and schemes that left unchecked by scripture and wisdom have ended in tragedy. Kool-aid anyone?

But . . .

You might be surprised at the countless seemingly harmless ideas and dreams that are presented to the local church leadership all wrapped up in a feverous box stamped, “God gave me this dream” day in and day out.

Often times, people judge the validity of their dreams/visions/choices/ideas based on the lack of any apparent obstruction or difficulty in achieving them. In the same way, many are quick to judge something as “invalid” or “not God’s will” based on roadblocks.

Scenario: A man is out of work and applies for a job in a new town. His wife hates the town, they will have to compromise on the children’s education, they have been warned by many friends not to go there, the man has a past history there that will be hard to overcome, there is no church for them to be involved in, etc. However, the man is offered a new position in the town after searching for work for a year. Should he take it?

OR . . .

Scenario: A woman applies for a job in a new town. She has been drawn to this town her whole life. Though she has been gone a few years, she grew up there, there is opportunity to help the community, she loves her home church there, she has many great relationships there. Many have counseled her that it would be wise to pursue something in this town. She knows that if she keeps pushing on towards her dream of moving back she can accomplish great things and she has a vision for the community. But, she can’t find a job there. Should she give up trying?

It is my conviction that just because something comes easy it doesn’t make it good. And, just because something is difficult doesn’t make it not worth pursuing.

I am certainly not saying praying for direction is irrelevant. Far from it! I do believe we should pray through difficult choices. I believe as we line our desires up with scripture, listen to wise counsel, practice Godly wisdom, learn through mistakes, meditate on the Word and digest it, and respond to God our prayer life will come alive and we will gain Godly perspective and direction.

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