How To Pray When You’re Making Important Decisions
Right before a friend of mine was getting ready to propose to his college sweetheart, I asked him a completely unfair question: “Do you feel like you prayed about this decision enough?”
How much would you have to pray about such an important decision to feel like it was enough?
When I saw the pained expression on his face, I started laughing and confessed that I was just messing with him. I told you we were friends!
This might surprise you, but I didn’t pray about whether I should marry Christine or whether we should move back to Columbia to help start The Crossing or how many children we should have. I’ve never prayed about which car to buy, or which destination would make the best family vacation, or which mutual funds to invest my retirement in.
Maybe you’re wondering if I should call myself a Christian, much less a pastor.
Before you condemn me, can I challenge you to find a Bible verse that tells us to pray for those kinds of decisions? Can you show me a biblical story that models praying to know God’s will about a decision we need to make?
Since Paul wrote “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” I don’t want to suggest that it’s wrong to pray about anything, including decisions you need to make.
But the biblical norm isn’t that we pray, and God tells us which alternative we should choose.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray when you’re facing a tough decision.
When It Comes To Making Decisions, What Should I Pray For?
- Pray for Wisdom.
When God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted, the newly anointed king asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3). Wisdom is essential when you are trying to decide if you should take a new job, parenting a rebellious teenager, preventing social media from having a negative influence in your life, and more.
Biblical wisdom isn’t about knowing the right answers but living the right way. And God promises to generously give it to whoever asks for it (James 1:5).
- Pray for Humility.
The Bible says that wise people seek out advice. One of the biggest obstacles preventing me from making good decisions is that I think I know what’s best and don’t (really) listen to others.
It takes humility to listen to the person who is telling you what you don’t want to hear. They may not be right, but the humble person listens carefully to the advice of wise counselors (Proverbs 19:20).
- Confess Your Sin.
Don’t make decisions when you are aware of unconfessed sin in your life.
- Pray for a Renewed Mind.
Every single decision you make involves your mind. You spend time—sometimes too much time—evaluating the options. But your mind, like every other part of your life, is affected by sin and needs to be renewed.
Paul says that a renewed mind “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…”(Romans 12:2).
- Pray for Discernment.
When you’re faced with a difficult decision and you truly don’t know what to do, you probably aren’t choosing between good and evil. If you were, the right answer would be obvious even if still hard to make.
Difficult decisions are difficult because the right answer isn’t clear. That’s why Paul prays that the believers in Philippi would be able “to discern what is best” (Philippians 1:9).
We want prayer to function like a Magic 8-Ball. We ask a question and God gives the answer. But what if God is far less concerned about which option we choose and far more concerned with what kind of person we are becoming?