I want you to know as one of the spiritual leaders of our church that I have been thrilled at the number of our church family who have taken up the 40 Day Prayer Challenge devotional book by Mark Batterson (Entitled, "Draw The Circle).
To be candid with you, I see the evidence of spiritual growth in many lives - there is a heighten awareness and hunger for God's presence.
For this I am grateful to God.
I encourage you to finish the 40 day challenge!
On day 22 of the 40 day prayer challenge, Mark brings up the idea of giving a prayer fleece before God. What he shares is really "spot on".
As a pastor, I am often asked about the validity of a prayer fleece (brought up in Judges 6).
Generally speaking, we do not rely upon prayer fleeces to precede our steps of faith (and I am quoting here) but to follow our steps of faith.
Some have relied upon a notion such as, "If I come up to the stoplight and it is yellow, then I know that is it God's will for me to get married," or some such silliness as that.
Normally, God doesn't give us a "Damascus experience" whereby he reveals His will to us. He almost always reveals His will to us step by step.
When I leave the church at night, I can't see the lights on at my house a few miles away. I can only see what the lights of my car show me 300-400 feet ahead of me.
It is almost always like this as I seek God's direction and will for my life.
Step by step.
To be candid with you - asking God for a fleece is a sign of a weak faith and insecurity. In other words, I need to see before I can believe (most of the time God asks us to believe before we see).
Mark Batterson writes, "But there are occasions when it's okay to ask God for confirmation because of our uncertainty."
Then he gives us some principles of caution:
1. If God has already answered your question in Scripture, then you don't need to even ask it. The first place to seek God's answer to prayer must always be God's Word. I might add here that God has also given us the Holy Spirit (especially as Spirit-filled believers - by speaking to us personally).
2. Check your motives to make sure they aren't selfish.
3. Be willing to accept whatever answer you receive without second-guessing it.
I would also add that many times I have received a sign that I was "on the right track" and that "God was directing me in a way that was his will." But it was almost always because of His grace and concern for me - not as a tool to increase my faith. It was a tool to confirm that I was going in the right direction, giving me a sense of spiritual peace in my spirit.
For example, on three separate occasions, I have, in the midst of seeking God's direction for my life, and receiving His will, have observed a rainbow in the sky, a beautiful rainbow that seemingly came out of nowhere (one time in particular when we were in France).
Was I asking for a "sign" from God that would show me the direction I was to go? No.
Did God graciously show me a rainbow to confirm the direction I was going? Absolutely.
Can God honor a fleece in the midst of our weak faith? Yes he can. He can do anything he wants to do. But does he desire that we trust Him enough to walk hand in hand with him throughout our spiritual pilgrimage, knowing that He knows what is best for us? Certainly so.
At the end of the day, even more important than receiving the answer to our prayer is receiving God himself and knowing that God is for us. That God is for you and God is for me.
That's why, Mark ends Day 22 with this thought, "Don't seek answers; seek God. And the answers will seek you."
Perhaps, just perhaps God is enough for today.
Just a thought for a Thursday.