When Not to Pray

phonegodI don’t have to pray about that!

Have you ever heard someone explain that they didn’t need to ask God about a particular situation? Perhaps you’ve been that person—so confident that you already know God’s will that you don’t need to confirm it? There seems to be an agreement in the church that some things are so obvious, we don’t need to check in with God about them.

I suppose you could make a case for instances where God’s will is clearly stated in the Bible. We probably don’t need to ask Him whether or not we should murder that annoying neighbor, for example. Nor do we need to pray about if we should cheat on our spouse.

But what about those other decisions, the ones that aren’t clearly covered by Scripture? Some may be simple questions—should we say yes to that volunteer request? Others may be more life-changing, such as an job offer. The answer might seem clear—I’m too busy to volunteer! Or, that’s my dream job, of course I’ll take it! In these cases we have a tendency to rush ahead, feeling as like “I’ve got this! I don’t need to pray about it!” Yet, are we really supposed to assume we understand God’s mind well enough that we can make those decisions on our own?

We recently heard a speaker explaining how he hears God’s voice in his life. One of his points was that, once we know our gifts and calling, we can forge on ahead, making decisions based on that knowledge. If someone asks us to do something outside that realm—something that would use a different gift or that doesn’t match with God’s purpose for our life (and by now we’ve all read The Purpose-Driven Life, right?), we don’t have to ask God about it. We can just go ahead and say no.

After all, God would never tell us to do something we aren’t gifted for.

He would never ask us to take a break from accomplishing our special job on earth to do something different.

Would He?

Back in 1993, when Pete and I were first asked (by a worldwide ministry) to move from California to Colorado Springs, our initial reaction was, “God would never ask us to do that! There are lots of Christians there, and not so many here in Silicon Valley. We need to stay here!” Yet, we agreed to pray about the decision, and God overwhelmed us with His answer: “Move!” Who would have guessed?

I think of verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:17, where Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing”? Other versions translate this as “Never stop praying” and “Pray constantly.” So, if we’re to always be in prayer, even as we go about our daily routines, are we then to suddenly stop praying just because we’ve encountered a situation where we think we already know God’s answer?

The overwhelming theme of the Bible is one of God drawing us humans to Himself. Over and over we see God’s heart of reconciliation and fellowship. His greatest desire is revealed in verses such as Leviticus 26:12—“I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

With that in mind, I find it hard to believe that God will give us our marching orders once and for all, then wave us on our way. He wants to go with us! As the familiar saying goes, “God isn’t our travel agent—He’s our tour guide!”

We may think we know the role God has for us here on Earth. We may understand the gifts and talents He’s blessed us with. But God is also a God of surprises. Sometimes I find He leads me to do things completely outside my area of expertise and gifting. I may have no clue how His request fits in with the rest of my life. All I know is that I’ve heard His voice, and I’m supposed to follow Him. It’s in these unexpected times that I find myself most dependent on Him.

I think that’s the whole idea!

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