Scenario: You have a job offer and you’re not sure whether or not you should take it. You need a little help deciding, so a natural thing to do is to call up a close friend. The two of you talk it over; your friend helps you weigh the pros and cons, and you get off the phone call perhaps still not 100% certain of your decision, but you feel like you have at least a little more clarity on the matter.
Now, what if instead of calling your friend, you just sent a brief text: “Have job offer. Send flowers if you think I should take; disregard if I shouldn’t.”
Crazy as that sounds—is this not sometimes how we approach our prayer when faced with a big decision?
Of course, God is more than just a good buddy with helpful advice–He’s the One who actually KNOWS how things will turn out whether we choose one road or the other. It would be so helpful if God could just beam down a ray of light illuminating which path we should take at every major crossroad, but often that’s not the way it works.
The Way It Works:
As my father-in-law puts it: “God is not a cosmic slot-machine.” Prayer is a conversation! A conversation with the Creator of the Universe, but a conversation nonetheless. When you’re faced with decisions, however big or small, God wants to talk with you about them. How else are we supposed to grow in relationship with God other than talking through with Him our thoughts and feelings? That brain in your head that is weighing all those scenarios? God put it there! And your faculty of reason is one way God talks to you.
Another way God talks to you is through your desires and longings.
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”
When the above Psalm popped into my head while I was driving one day, I nearly pulled over my car so I could look it up to make sure it was actually in Scripture. Did God really promise me the desires of my heart? Isn’t prayer and this whole Christianity thing supposed to be about conforming my will to His? Of course it is, but the Christian life isn’t meant to be a drudgery of “I’m doing this because God says so.” It’s supposed to be a joyful union of our will and our desires to the Creator’s, so that we can confidently proclaim with the Psalmist, “Take delight in the Lord, and He WILL give you the desires of your heart.”
You see, our desires and longings are another way that God reveals Himself to us. And if this sounds controversial it shouldn’t, because it’s relatively simple to keep in check. If my desires are immoral or somehow not in keeping with the teachings of the Church, then they are not of God, plain and simple. But, if I am weighing two options— neither of which appear to lead me away from God and His Church—and one stirs a longing deep within me, or conversely, maybe one produces feelings of anxiety or just an overall sense of not sitting right, then perhaps those feelings are God speaking to me.
“Ask A Sign of the Lord your God” (Isaiah 7:11)
If you are at all familiar with my blog then you know that I am all about praying novenas and being specific in your prayer intentions. Asking for signs isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it’s actually Biblical!). However, asking for signs is never a stand-alone thing. God will give you signs, but only in the context of a relationship and as the result of a conversation. In fact you probably won’t even recognize the signs God sends your way if you’re not in the habit of regularly talking to Him.
So start talking to Him! Open up the Scriptures regularly to get to know God and to familiarize yourself with His voice. Spend regular time in silent, personal prayer. God wants to help us in both the big decisions and the little things—not as some guidance counselor, but as the most important person in our lives.