If you are a Christian with any sense of humor, then it is likely that you keep up with John Crist. The Christian comedian created a hilarious video explaining that when you become a Christian you are given access to a whole new range of options for telling people “no.”
Some of the best include (but are not limited to): “It’s not God’s will,” “I don’t feel peace about it,” and my personal favorite, “Let me lay out a fleece.” While the video is meant for laughs and to poke fun at the quirks of Christian culture, Crist ends with a version of “no” that resonated with me: “Let me pray about it.”
I noticed some of the commenters on the video getting their feathers ruffled: “What’s wrong with praying about something?,” “There’s nothing wrong with taking something to God in prayer,” etc. Although the video is a humorous, satirical take on our humanity, I don’t entirely disagree with the objectors. It is good to be prayerful and discerning when making a decision.
However, sometimes we abuse God’s gift of prayer as a way to avoid hard conversations and to hide our indecision.
For the sake of transparency, I’ll share an experience I had when I was in college. I had gone on a couple of dates with a gal and, although I didn't know if it was going to lead anywhere just yet, I enjoyed myself and was interested in continuing to get to know her. I expressed these thoughts to her and her response back was as follows: “Well, I really need to pray about it.” I respected her wishes and gave her time to pray and figure stuff out. I heard nothing from her for four months. FOUR. MONTHS. I should have taken the hint, but I decided to reach out to her just to catch up. We met up for coffee and I expected her to tell me directly that nothing was going to happen between us—which I was fine with at this point—but, to my surprise, she explained that she was still praying about it. It was at this point that I realized she was probably trying to avoid having a tough conversation or that she didn’t want to hurt any feelings. There’s a lot more to this story, but I’ll just end it there.
That whole experience made me realize something about Christians: we are sometimes guilty of using prayer as an excuse for passivity. Rather than being upfront and honest with people, we will try to hide behind this “Jesus Juke” of sorts—as prayer is very difficult to argue against. It can be too easy to use prayer as an excuse to put off things that will make us uncomfortable instead of making hard decisions and having difficult conversations. We need to, as my old college roommates often reminded me, “check our comfort at the door.” Saying no to people is uncomfortable, but it’s also necessary.
I can hear you asking, “But what if we are legitimately praying about something and God hasn’t given us a sign yet?” To that I say, be careful. Many times we hear testimonies from Christians relating how one time, when they were waiting on an answer from God, they randomly flipped open the Bible to a verse—or heard a song on the radio—telling them exactly what God wanted them to do. It’s great when God communicates with us in those ways, but that doesn’t mean He will always and only communicate His will to us in that manner. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that, if we come to a crossroads, all we need to do is pray and then God will eventually provide us with a clear, undeniable sign. This can be a problematic way to live because it doesn’t take into account the entire breadth of Scripture’s wisdom and insight for our lives (Psalm 1:1-6). It can cause us to ignore the more-subtle-but-still-powerful ways that Holy Spirit moves in our lives. God can speak through the faithful wisdom of close friends and family (Proverbs 12:15, 11:14, 15:22, and 19:20-21), in the quiet and nearly imperceptible stillness of little moments (1 Kings 19:11-18), or even through common sense and good judgment (Proverbs 3:16-21, James 1:22-25)
This is hard, yes, and it is something I have struggled with when trying to understand God’s will for my life. I have lived in fear that I had to make the exact right decision for my life and that, if I didn’t discern perfectly, then everything would blow up in my face. Don’t get me wrong, there are good choices and bad choices. But what about when we have options in front of us that are both good? This is what I was faced with when I was just about to graduate from college. I was given two great job opportunities that I believe would have both worked out for my benefit and been glorifying to God, but I was paralyzed by the fear of making the “wrong” decision and accidentally ruining my life. Throughout this whole ordeal, I came to realize (through wise counsel from pastors, friends, and family) that when we continually submit our heart and will to God, we are always living and operating underneath His care. There’s nothing we can do that would surprise Him.
So if you are currently faced with making a hard or uncomfortable decision in your life, you should absolutely take it to God in prayer. Philippians 4 tells us to make our requests known to God. HOWEVER, 1) If you have your mind made up, don’t continue using prayer as an excuse for putting off something difficult and 2) don’t be paralyzed by fear if you aren’t given clear direction. If your decision doesn’t have sin in it, then all you have to do is step out in faith trusting that God’s sovereign hand is in it all.
Why won't God reveal his special will for my life already?
Because he doesn't intend to... So says Kevin DeYoung in this punchy book about making decisions the godly way.