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.
2 thoughts on “The Prayer for Divine Guidance”
The late R.C. Sproul explains, “Christians (should) not think of God as a ruler who ad libs His dominion of the universe. God does not “make it up as He goes along.” Nor must He be viewed as a bumbling administrator who is so inept in His planning that His blueprint for redemption must be endlessly subject to revision according to the actions of men. The God of Scripture has no “plan b” or “plan c.” His “plan a” is from everlasting to everlasting. It is both perfect and unchangeable as it rests on God’s eternal character, which is among other things, holy, omniscient, and immutable. God’s eternal plan is not revised because of moral imperfections within it that must be purified. His plan was not corrected or amended because He gained new knowledge that He lacked at the beginning. God’s plan never changes because He never changes and because perfection admits to no degrees and cannot be improved upon.”
Genesis 24.3 tells us not everyone will be part of Christ’s bride. Abraham tells Eleazor not to go to the Canaanite women. The logos is clear on the “thou shalt nots”, and prayer ought not to argue against absolutes. Recently an article entitled When God Ruins Your Expectations With His Perfect Plan was posted. The title says it all, approaching prayer with an outcome-specific expectation often runs afoul of God’s plan for our lives.
Trials require an act of faith and we must always remember our life is not our own. Our Father has written our purpose before He placed the first stars in the heavens. We are chosen by God, and He has a specific purpose for us.
We exist because of God, and we exist for God’s purpose. We are charged to be confident that in all things He is working out what is best.
Charles Spurgeon said, “God hath purposes, and those purposes are fulfilled.”
One of my favorite and most difficult Spurgeon quotes is, “The blessed truth of providence is one of the softest pillows upon which the Christian can lay his head, and one of the strongest staffs upon which he may lean in the pilgrimage along this rough road.”
Even when we screw up, it is not a surprise to Our Father. Yet the pain of regret can torment the Christian until that pillow of Christ provided forgiveness delivers rest. I cannot imagine the painful darts of regret Satan fired at Paul for the murder of Stephen, but that staff of faith on which Paul rested, knowing Stephen’s embrace was just a step through the veil, was also a pillow on which to rest.
Thanks for a thoughtful response, Wes!