I came across an article this morning that gave what the author called eight keys to understanding God’s will for your life. As knowing God’s will is, in my opinion, extremely important to the life of a Christian, I was interested in what the author had to say. A few of the points were very good ones, but then I got to key #6 which was Listen to God’s Spirit.
I was immediately cautious as I read the authors explanation. I was hoping that perhaps he was using that in some metaphorical way. Maybe he was going to say that as we pray we should keep good biblical principles in mind. A fraction of a second later, my anticipated disappointment turned into real disappointment. The author was saying that we need to ask God for the next steps in the different major areas in our lives and then wait, pen in hand, and write down everything God tells us.
My friends, this is an extremely dangerous practice. In New Age vernacular this is called channeling. Not only is it a dangerous entry into occult practices, it’s completely unbiblical. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us to seek words from God other than the words that he’s already given us: the Bible.
At the end of each key in the article, the author includes a Bible verse, and this one was no different. The verse he included was John 10:27 which says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
The context of this verse immediately tells us that this has nothing to do with prayer. All you have to do is read the paragraph that contains that verse. Take a look at John 10:22-29 (emphasis mine).
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
From the context, we can see that verse 27 is talking about people coming to know Christ for salvation. This is not a command or a statement about the prayer lives of his followers.
(Though not in the article I read this morning, another common verse that people will often use to justify what’s called Listening Prayer or Contemplative Prayer is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” I wrote about that last year.)
Despite the popular notion that prayer is to be a dialog, there’s nothing in the Bible that commands us to seek that. If God wants to speak to you he certainly can, but that is not a normal practice and we shouldn’t be looking for it; in fact it should be viewed as exceedingly rare. God’s will for us has been clearly laid out in the Bible. Using those principles, we can be sure that our actions will please him.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul tells us that it is the Scripture that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, and that by the Scripture the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. It’s in the Scripture that we should be seeking his will and his words to us. The Scripture is sufficient and authoritative for our lives as followers of Christ.