If you’re a Christian whose friends have ever faced the decision of where to go to college, what person to date, or other big decisions in life, then you’ve probably heard one of those friends bring up the following verse:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Since God has a plan for us, the thinking goes, we should pray and listen to His voice so we can live according to that plan and experience life as it was meant to be lived. It’s our loss if we don’t, because our Father in heaven wants what’s best for us, and we shouldn’t be afraid to take hold of the life that God offers. With those particular insights, I have no disagreement.
But lately, I’ve started to wonder if some people might have a different motivation for asking God to tell them what to do. If I’m right, I suspect that a good number of people aren’t even aware that they’re acting out of this particular emotion. Either way, I wanted to explore the topic a bit.
I think a reason people are praying for God’s will regarding a particular decision isn’t because they want that decision to carry forward Jesus’ mission of restoring everything and as many people as possible to God. I think they want this in a general sense, but when it comes to particular decisions that have to be made, I wonder if another motivator is at work.
I wonder if they’re praying because they’re too afraid of actually having to make a decision.
Maybe they’re not accepting that coffee date because the last guy/girl they went out with broke their heart, and they don’t want to make themselves vulnerable again.
Maybe they’re not going to an academically tougher school or applying for a more challenging job because they’re afraid that their best won’t be good enough and they’ll eventually leave that place a failure.
It’s impossible to know how things play out. So I wonder if the reason we want God to tell us His will regarding some of these big decisions is because life would be easier and less scary if we knew how things would turn out.
So we ask God to pull back the curtain and give us a peek into the next act.
And then we wait for His answer.
And we wait.
And we wait some more.
We wait because we think we’re trying to make sure that we don’t take a step Jesus doesn’t want us to take.
But if we were to be honest, we’re not moving because the thought of doing so scares the hell out of us.
Maybe we’re asking Jesus’ opinion on a matter not because his wishes are our highest priority but because we want the Lord to eliminate the possibility of failure or getting hurt. And there’s no better way to do that than to get Him to tell us what’s next.
Yes, I do think that God wants us to live according to His will. I also believe that part of that divine plan is for our lives to not be ruled by fear and anxiety, and I’ve written this post because I’ve started to wonder if many of our prayers–indeed, many of my own–are motivated by the very things that He warned us against.
If this doesn’t apply to you, then I’m glad. I’m actually happy to be wrong. But if what I’ve written sounds strangely like the reasoning of your heart, then I hope you’ll take some time and inspect the real motivation behind your prayers.