November 14, 2016

God, guidance, and answered prayers

Abraham sent a servant a long distance to find a wife among his kinsmen for his son. The servant asked God to guide him. Finally he arrived at a well and a young woman arrived at the same time. He asked her for a drink and she offered to feed his camels, a specific action or sign that he had asked for in his prayer. As the servant wondered if she could be the one, she identified herself as relative of Abraham. At that, she added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.”

The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” (Genesis 24:25–27)

God usually does not give me a sign as plain as that, but as Chambers says, those who are “one with God  . . . do not continually need to ask for guidance.” He adds that “Sanctification means that we are made the children of God, and the natural life of a child is obedience—until he wishes to be disobedient, then instantly there is the intuitive jar.”

I usually know instantly when I’ve stepped out of the will of God. Last week, I shared something God was teaching me in a Bible study group. That was God’s will. However, I later shared it with two other people and felt the “jar.” It was not God’s will. He quickly revealed to me that my motivation was more about my own glory than His.

Chambers agrees that when God gives that nudge, I have to stop and get things right. He says Christians can “see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail.”

I agree. Like a game of “I spy” in which God is teaching me to be continually on the lookout for Him. He reveals Himself in ways something like basketball coach Dan Hayes described, “All I know is that when I pray, coincidences happen; and when I don't pray, they don't happen.”

Even as I watch for God and as He reveals Himself, my heart needs to be set to do His will. Then He guides me in ways that seem very natural.

Chambers’ words are condensed from speeches he made so these devotional readings sometimes seem disjointed or rambling. In this one, his remarks jump around a bit. However, he ends with a statement that resonates with my current spiritual life: “It is easier to be a fanatic than a faithful soul, because there is something amazingly humbling, particularly to our religious conceit, in being loyal to God.”

I find that to be true. All of what God does puts me in awe, yet at the same time His actions and ‘coincidences’ put me on my face.

For example, last night a person called that I’ve been praying for many years. This person once made a profession of faith and was baptized, but seems far from God and never talks about spiritual matters. Our 30-minute conversation was about God, faith, good, evil, and was so in harmony with the Holy Spirit that I nearly said, “Who are you and what have you done with (his name)?” God is at work answering my prayers!

Because prayer is hard work, much of my praying happens because of loyalty to God and His desire that I pray. Being loyal to God draws me closer to Him and deepens my understanding of Him, but it does not ‘earn’ His answers. Instead, prayer is often a mystery. However, His answer to that prayer astonished me. Like the servant looking for Isaac’s wife, I knew God could do it, but the way He answered was a blessed surprise, beyond anything I could have expected . . . .

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NIV)

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