I’ve heard a good many sermons by well-intentioned preachers and theologians on why praying for divine guidance demonstrates a lack of faith or even that it smacks of pagan divination. Of course, I think that asking God for signs at first resort is generally symptomatic of weak faith, and might even betray a faulty view of God, who has for the most part revealed His will for us in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But, there are times and circumstances that defy doing anything else but appealing to our Father in heaven for specific direction, and we can at such times pray confidently for wisdom and guidance in faith (James 1:5).
Now, I could share an anecdote or two, but anecdotes are sometimes glibly dismissed with a “show me in Scripture where we might see that.” So, we’ll skip the personal anecdotes and go to a biblical illustration. “O.K., but don’t show me Gideon’s fleece,” one might say. “After all, Gideon had to throw the dice (oops!) fleece twice (Judges 6:36-40).” So, how about another example, the servant of Abraham (Genesis 24)?
Scripture does not give him a name, but tradition assigns him the name, Eliezer, meaning “God is my helper.” Whatever his name actually was, Eliezer surely fits him. His assignment is to find a wife, one who will meet Abraham’s specifications for his 40 year old son, Isaac. Clear instructions are given and divine help will subsequently be promised for the task, but “Eliezer” (let’s just call him that) is still left with a problem.
“What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” Genesis 24:5 NIV
And, so the chapter records the prayer of “Eliezer” to the “LORD, God of my master Abraham” not just for “a wife” but for “the one YOU (Yahweh) have chosen for your servant Isaac.” “Eliezer” wants God’s best, the right woman for the right man, a woman who is not only willing to marry Isaac, but a woman willing to return with him to Canaan, a country not her own, not one she is familiar with, to a wed a man she has never met and does not know! Wow!
For this mission and task, “Eliezer” needs something more than a “chapter and verse.” But it is to the “chapter and verse” God (yes, the truths of God known in Abraham’s day, were passed down most accurately by oral tradition and then subsequently recorded by Moses), that “Eliezer” knows he can appeal for help! His knowledge of God shapes his confident approach to God! And, the narrative in chapter 24 discloses how “Eliezer’s” faith was rewarded!
You can read Genesis chapter 24 for yourself, but I have made some observations that might help us when we encounter those rare, “I really need special direction” moments.
The Characteristics of the “Eliezer” Prayer for Guidance: Informal, personal, intimate, reflects the heart of man devoted to Abraham and His God. Heart in prayer trumps form!
Three Main Elements: 1) Petition for success grounded in a mission appointed by God. 2) Appeal to God’s Covenant Love and Promises to Abraham. 3) Request for a specific supernatural sign.
Three Noteworthy Features: 1) His prayer is repeated underscoring its significance for us (Genesis 24:12-14; 42-45; cf. Romans 15:4). 2) His prayer testifies to God’s faithfulness, loyal love and promises (Genesis 24:12, 27 & 42). 3) It appears that His prayer was supported by that of at least one other (Genesis 24:62-64).
Sooner or later, all of us will face something that defies human wisdom, and even our understanding of Scripture. But the God who is revealed in Scripture, who has given us a New Covenant binding His Bride to Himself forever, will not fail the believer who appeals to Him in faith in the time of crisis! To that I can humbly testify.