We serve a God who has spoken in history, who will indeed speak again tomorrow and who wants to speak to us right here and now. He is attempting to communicate with you more often than you may know. And that’s why we have been exploring what the scriptures say about prayer and devotions over the last four weeks.
We’ve discovered how God is more than capable and willing to do what we think is impossible.
We learned how like our bodies need physical exercise to stay in shape, so do our prayer lives. And we have the perfect example from Jesus of how to do that in the Lord’s Prayer. Use it like an exercise chart.
We won’t just drift into the perfect prayer life. We’ve got to put some work into it.
We also looked at barriers that may be blocking our prayers; things like wrong requests, wrong timing, or even us – our lack of prayer, our unconfessed sin, unresolved conflict, our uncaring attitudes, doubt or unbelief.
And we’ve seen through the scriptures that our God is inviting and even waiting for us to talk to Him. He is eager to hear from us, and He is eager in return to talk to us.
But we won’t hear Him if we don’t slow down. Most of us are far too busy for our own spiritual good. We have all these wonderful tips of how to pray and communicate with our Father in Heaven, but none of it matters if we don’t slow down long enough to pray. That means we have to learn to slow down our RPMs from 10,000 (a race car engine speed) to 5,000 (a regular car engine speed), then all the way to 500, where we can actually hear the still, small voice of God.
But here’s something else I want you to understand. Not only does a solid prayer life benefit us and certainly our relationship with God, but it benefits God’s plans for this whole earth. That means what we do when God talks to us and gives us promptings may be more important than we can imagine. It’s bigger than what we can see in the moment.
You don’t have to be in just the silent mode to hear God’s promptings. But don’t miss hear me! It starts in the quiet times with God. In fact, the more time you spend in that quiet mode with God, the more often you will see and hear His promptings elsewhere throughout your day.
That’s because when we learn to hear what God sounds like, we notice Him in more places. We see him at work. We know what the feeling of His nudge is like. The real question is: What are you going to do about those promptings you receive?
Think about a time when you felt you should tell someone something. Did you do you it? Maybe you felt God telling you to turn down this road only to find out later there was an accident down the road you were originally going to take and you could have very well been in it. Or how about when God puts the idea in your mind to pick up the phone and call someone only to find out that that person really needed a friend at this time.
I remember a time I felt God telling me to stop what I was doing and call my friend, and when she picked up the phone, she had been weeping and needed someone to console her. If I wouldn’t have followed that prompting, she may have not had anyone to help her through, and I would have miss that opportunity to be there for her.
And I’ll never forget, the day I dropped Josh, my oldest son, off in Elizabethtown to fly down to basic training for the Army. It had been just he and I for 15 years, and he was leaving for 10 weeks. That was a long time for me. I had to stop at a bicycle shop on my way home and saw this man in uniform in a different camo design than Army, so I wasn’t sure if he was a marine, in the navy or air force. But it didn’t matter. I was just admiring him and the service I knew he was doing.
But as I stood there, I felt this nudge to say something to him, to thank him. I had no idea in that moment that he would be the one to console me as I just said goodbye to Josh.
He went on to thank me. Telling me that he has a wife and 4 children and believes the family members of the soldiers are the ones really sacrificing, giving up their loved ones. After talking to him, I was felt so much peace for the rest of the day. If I didn’t say anything, I would have missed that beautiful conversation, and I would have missed God’s sense of peace.
My list could go on and on. The point is, when God tells you to write to this person, or make a visit with that person, or give away so much money, to start this or stop that, or share the other thing, it doesn’t have to always make sense in the moment. Some of the most important decisions in my life have made no sense at all from a worldly perspective.
When God tells us to do something, we don’t always have to understand it. All we really need to do is obey it….and then trust. Trust God to use our obedience to accomplish His will.
Are ALL promptings from God? Short answer would be, “No.” We are capable of thinking that our own desires are God’s wishes. Again, we can get in the way. But I have to tell you and spend some time on this, the bible also warns us that Satan is capable of getting in the way. He is capable of issuing his own promptings for destructive purposes and undermining God’s promptings.
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times, some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
Jesus said in Matthew 24:24 that
“False messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.”
So it is very important to know the source of the promptings coming into our minds. And please know this, the evil spirits are not necessarily easy to distinguish from God’s spirit.
In the 3rd chapter of Genesis, Adam and Eve followed a prompting to increase their knowledge by eating an attractive fruit that plunged the human race into darkness and sin.
King David followed a prompting to befriend a beautiful army wife, and it cost him his best general and a son.
Who led a bunch of radical martyrs to blow up the World Trade Center or more recently,
Who led the young man in Texas to shoot innocent elementary aged children and teachers.
Who leads any of us to say hurtful things, to be stuck in own agendas?
In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul reminds us that there is a war going on in this universe.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
This war is being fought on the battlefields of our minds. As God is leading people for His glory and for their benefit, Satan does everything in his power to undo God’s work and undermine God’s actions in people’s lives.
There are only two ways to respond to Satan’s promptings:
Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.” (Flee from evil desires).
James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Because of this spiritual war, it is possible that some of the notions that come to our minds are not from God. And I know that that can be a bit scary. So how can we be sure that a prompting is truly from God?
1 John 4:1
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
How do we test the spirits? I’ll tell you at least 3 ways to test the spirits:
- Consistency with Scripture: ALL promptings that come from God are consistent with his Word. A prompting to exaggerate to a customer, to spread hurtful gossip, to deceive your spouse, your parents or even your children or to do anything else forbidden by Scripture is NOT a prompting from God. If the prompting goes against the Bible, it comes from an unholy spirit. Call it satanic, and dismiss it immediately.
- On the other hand, a prompting may be consistent with God’s Word and still not be sent by the Holy Spirit. For example, nothing in the bible told Jesus he should not turn stones into bread, as the devil urged Him to do. Yet He told Satan He wouldn’t do that. Why, because it didn’t fit with who Jesus was.
If a prompting is not conflicting Scripture, then it’s time to look at the second way to test the spirits: God’s promptings are usually consistent with the person He made you to be.
If children are not your thing, just because there is an opening in the children’s ministry, doesn’t mean God’s calling you to fill it. Why would God’s promptings contradict who He made you to be? Why would He design you for one purpose and then ask you to fulfill another?
Our God is purposeful. He is the master orchestrator of the universe. He loves to stretch our abilities and expand our potential, and that often involves pushing us along new paths. But that does not mean that He ignores the very gifts He gave us. After all, He did give them to us so that we could serve Him more effectively.
So if you sense a prompting that seems contrary to who God made you to be, I advise you test it carefully.
Is He asking you to do it because there is no one else to help?
Is He asking you to stretch into new areas so that your gifts will grow?
Or is this perhaps not a God-inspired prompting at all, but rather a distraction from the task God has really given you to do?
- A third way we can test the sprits, God’s promptings usually involve servanthood. I find that many counterfeit promptings are fairly easy to discern because they are self-promoting or self-serving. For example, if a prompting promises easy money, fame, all the perks, watch out. Wealth has ruined more people than servanthood and hardship ever will.
On the other hand, I can usually sense that a prompting is from the Holy Spirit when it calls me to humble myself, serve somebody, encourage somebody or give something away. Rarely will the evil one lead us to do those kinds of things.
Many of God’s promptings will require you to choose between being comfortable and building a godly character, choosing your way or seeking God’s kingdom first. If a prompting promises you overnight health, wealth, or happiness, be cautious.
God led Jesus to a cross, not a crown and yet that cross ultimately proved to be the gateway to freedom and forgiveness for every sinner in the world.
Let me add a few others cautions:
If a prompting requires you to make a major, life-changing decision in a very short period of time – question it.
If a prompting requires you to place someone else in a position of awkwardness, compromise, or danger – question it.
If a prompting requires you to jeopardize – not to mention shatter – family relationships or any important friendships – question it.
If a prompting creates unrest in the spirits of mature Christian friends or counselors as you share it with them – question it.
I’m not saying you should automatically reject such promptings, unless they go against scripture. But do treat them with care. Promptings from God can open the door to amazingly, fulfilling Christian adventures, but counterfeit promptings can lead to unbelievable amounts of confusion, hardship, and pain.
It is a terrible loss when Christians are so afraid of counterfeit promptings that they close their ears to the Holy Spirit’s promptings as well. So don’t do that! God wants us to test the spirits. And even more, once they are tested, He wants us to step out in faith and follow Him.
And just think, when you know it is God prompting you to do something, you know there’s going to be something good that comes out of this.
When you begin to listen for God’s promptings, you often won’t know why He is asking you to do something. He will lead you down paths through unknown territory, sometimes for no other reason than to teach you to trust Him.
But for a truly dynamic, authentic, exciting Christian life, you simply must listen for the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Listen with all you have. Then test them. Obey them. Say yes to cooperating with God even if it seems risky. I promise you this much, you won’t be disappointed. Instead, you will be amazed at what He will do.