We all have prayers and petitions before the Lord. We are asking him to move in our life, family, work and church situations. We pray for direction and wisdom and then anticipate an answer.
Have you made a life-changing decision based upon a perceived answer to prayer and then watched as the situation completely unraveled?
Or, maybe you like to lay out fleeces, like Gideon did so God can give you a very clear answer?
I want to address both of these life scenarios because I have counseled with many and have seen bad things happen when people with the best heart and intentions are led astray. I want to share views from a counseling perspective, suggest some alternatives for you to consider and then hopefully get your feedback!
Did God Answer My Prayer?
I want to begin by laying out some truths about God and the spirit realm:
- God is in control. Nothing happens that He does not allow to happen.
- God has a good plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11).
- When bad things happen, we cannot automatically conclude that God wanted that to happen although He did allow it (see point 1).
- There is a demonic kingdom still active in the world today and they are working to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10)
- God sets up divine appointments and meetings for us.
- The demonic realm sets up divine appointments and meetings for us also. (One of the definitions for “divine” is: of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god”.)
- God answers our prayers in His timing
- The demonic realm can work to “answer” our prayers or petitions also (at least the ones spoken out loud that they hear!). Their timeframe is often shorter! They can even give us scriptures to consider. Satan did it to Jesus when he tempted him (Matt. 4:1-11).
- Our struggles are spiritual, and not against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12).
Should You Put Out Fleeces?
The concept of putting out fleeces is found in Judges 6:37-40 where Gideon sought answers from the Lord as to whether or not he was to be used to save Israel.
He put a wool fleece on the threshing room floor and determined that if there was dew upon it and the ground was dry, God had confirmed his answer. Then, being a mighty man of faith, Gideon asked the Lord to confirm it a second time only with the presence of the dew reversed. God honored his actions.
Is this an appropriate practice for today? My personal opinion is that it is not a practice that Christians should pursue because:
- See the points 5 and 8 above and,
- The Holy Spirit will tell us! He lives inside of us and gives us wisdom. We have a huge advantage over Gideon because the Holy Spirit only visited and rested upon him!
How Can We Know The Source Of Our Answer?
That is the proverbial $64,000 question! God will answer our prayers, and we need spiritual discernment to know it! In John 10:27, Jesus told us that his sheep will know his voice. There are not typically scriptures to go to provide answers for many of our life questions:
- Should I marry this person?
- Do you want me to start this business?
- Should I start this study program
- And so on… you get the point!
I believe that the answer to the questions we have lie in the midst of the following:
- Do you have peace about the answer you have arrived at? Decisions made in the flesh do not calm the Spirit (or spirit) in us!
- Do others who love me and know God agree? Plans fail for lack of counsel. It is important to distinguish between counsel and opinion.
- Does the answer pass the “smell” test? There is a difference between a step of faith and a leap of foolishness.
- Are there any scriptural mandates that are being violated? For example, if a believer wants to develop a potential marriage relationship with a non-believer (“missionary dating”), 2 Cor 6:14 would nip that in the bud (“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”). God will never lead you to violate His word but the demonic realm will tempt you there.
Hearing the voice of God on all things is the heart’s cry of believers. We love to see the handwriting on the wall for every decision, but it is usually that still, small voice that we need to listen to. We must learn to filter out the voices of the flesh, the world and the demonic realm. As we grow in that, we can have peace knowing that we are walking in obedience to what the Holy Spirit would have us do.
Have you put out fleeces before the Lord? How did that work for you?