Not long ago, a brother in Christ that I’ve known for probably 20 years, approached me with a pretty simple request. He was facing a decision of consequence in his life and wanted to know if I’d be willing to meet with him to discuss the matter.
When he asked me the question of my willingness, he urged me to take some time to pray about it and not feel any pressure. However, in the same moments that he asked me the question about sitting down and talking about whatever this impending decision was, I knew right away that it was something that I should and could do for my friend.
Even though I immediately responded affirmatively, he implored me to pray about it and be sure and then get back to him just to confirm that it was what God wanted me to do.
To be sure, there are many times in our spiritual journey where we can’t say with absolute conviction that we should or should not do something. In those times, we are very wise to not make a hurried decision based simply on circumstance or previous history.
However, there are times when we can almost “over-spiritualize” basic decisions.
In one of my favorite stories that demonstrates the compassion of Christ for hurting people I’m drawn to Matthew 8:5-13 which is subtitled “the Faith of the Centurion.” In that circumstance, a Roman soldier, a man with authority over 100 other men, came to Jesus in the town of Capernaum and asked of Jesus “Lord, he said, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” (Matt. 8:6 NIV) Notice Jesus response which was not preceded by any deliberation, intercession or fasting. Jesus immediately says,
“I will go and heal him.” (Matt 8:7)
What was the source of the confidence that Jesus had that this was a request that He was supposed to fulfill without even having to pray about it? In fact, in view of His other responses when He would place the well being of the Jewish people before those who were non-Jews. How could He be so certain to make this instantaneous and strong assertion: “I will go and heal him.”
The answer lies in the intimacy of His relationship with His Heavenly father. Jesus simply knew what the Father wanted Him to do so that His “natural” responses were always in alignment with the will of God. This is what is meant when Jesus says in other references “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
And so it is with our relationship with Jesus. The closer and more intimate that relationship, the less time we need to seek His face concerning decisions that we make. Oswald Chambers, my favorite devotional writer, says it this way.
“When you’re rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your common sense decisions are His will for you unless He checks.”
So, even though I knew it was God’s will for me to meet with my friend concerning this decision, in order to honor his wishes I waited a couple days and still had complete peace about meeting. I did tell my friend that that’s all the time I needed to know that that’s what God wanted me to do, but once he gave me the details of his decision, that’s when I may not be as confident about knowing God’s will and would therefore need some additional time to pray, read scripture and just wait on the Lord.
I love the freedom that God intends for us to enjoy. The very possibility that my “natural decisions” would be aligned with what God would want is an incredible, mind boggling, privilege. It is something that I never seek to use in any way that would appear to inflate my importance; rather it’s something that I have come to understand after more than 40 years of walking with Him.
In contrast to that, I’m also involved with another person that I don’t know that well and they’re personal circumstance is extremely serious. Although I certainly know what I want to see the Lord do to bring healing to this individual, I can’t say that I have the confidence of certainty that it is God’s will to heal this person in this moment. Therefore, my open prayers, with this person and others who may be in the room at the same time, is always a very honest acknowledgement that I believe the Lord wants this person healed, but I don’t claim to have the certainty of faith that knows it’s going to happen in the way that I, and many others, would like to see it take place. My posture there is to continue to seek the Lord on behalf of this person. I am praying daily to know what the Father wants me to do in light of the seriousness of the situation with this friend.
What I have come to discover about these kinds of prayers is that they aren’t so much about getting God to do something; rather these kinds of prayers are so that I may get to know God better and as a consequence be able to speak His will with His authority into every situation. I am certainly not at that level, but I continue to ask God to take me to that place so that I might be a much more effective servant of His kingdom and a much more intimate friend of God who knows His will without even struggling to discern it.