One of the more common statements Christians make in order to justify themselves while making bad decisions is, “I’ve prayed about it.” If I had a dollar for every time that phrase has been offered to justify somebody’s self-will, I’d have enough money to buy a couple of church buildings that would each seat five hundred people.
Does this mean there is something wrong with “praying about” decisions? Of course not. But the Christian needs to remember that his old, depraved, carnal nature (he didn’t lose that when he trusted Christ, and won’t until he gets a new body) is constantly at work “behind the scenes,” pretending to be “spiritual,” in order to fool both himself and other Christians around him into thinking he’s a good, godly, dedicated, spiritually-minded individual. If he’s not careful, the Christian will deceive himself into thinking he’s following God because he “prayed about” something, when in reality he is simply wrapping his own self-will in the cloak of spiritual pretense.
“But, I prayed about it...!” Okay...so?
We are accustomed to thinking of prayer in the sense of kneeling and praying to God for things, but in the Bible, the term “prayer” is the act of asking for something. And it is often not God Who is being asked. One time Abraham asked Sarah, “Say, I PRAY thee, thou art my sister...” (Gen. 12:13). When we go to the Lord in prayer, we do so to ASK Him for something; we ask for His blessing on a meal, for His will in a decision, for His protection on a trip, etc. With that definition in mind, think of a twelve-year-old boy who brings his Dad’s shotgun out in the back yard to play with. A friend walks up as he’s coming out and says,
FRIEND: “Whoa! Are you sure you have permission to play with that thing?”
BOY: “Well I asked my Dad if I could...” (He racks a round into the chamber and raises the gun to look down the sites...)
FRIEND: “Aaaaand.....? Well c’mon! What’d he say, man?! Yes or No?!”
BOY: “Oh, I didn’t wait around to hear his answer. I figured he was alright with it. I mean, I asked his permission; what more does he want?”
That’s the equivalent of using the “I prayed about it” routine. We’re all very glad you’ve asked God about things. Now, more importantly, “WHAT’D HE SAY, MAN??!!” You pray and ask God about things to get an ANSWER to your questions, not as a ritual or an act that brings good luck. After you’ve prayed, you must then wait for His response. And He will always respond, eventually.
The “I prayed about it” routine is a dangerous thing. In addition to excusing bad life choices, it has also been used to justify believing in false doctrine. I recently had a discussion with a man who forsook believing in the Biblically sound doctrine of the literal one thousand-year reign of Christ, rightly dividing the scriptures, the pre-tribulation rapture of the body of Christ, and a host of other truths for an amillennial, Calvinistic position. The reason he gave to prove he was right was, he had “spent hundreds of hours in prayer and research,” therefore his conclusions were correct.
Consider that no matter how much time a man spends in prayer or study, he cannot transform a falsehood into a truth. If he’s convinced he can, then he’s deceived. We have a Final Authority (the King James Bible) which says what is so, independently of anyone praying about it or researching anything. Pray as long and hard as you want, but if you come to a conclusion that goes against the Book, you’re praying with or listening to the wrong spirit.
Some men believe they are immune to deception thanks to their self-proclaimed spiritual discernment, and talent for “trying the spirits.” On the other hand, if a man is deceived, how does he know he’s deceived? If he knew he’d been deceived, wouldn’t he reject the deception immediately?
If a man was insane, would he know he was insane?
There are some of the brethren that think, “I’m a King James Bible-believing pastor. I’m the ‘Man-o-God!’ God wouldn’t allow me to be deceived. I’m above it. I’ve studied everything out and I know too much to be deceived.” Is there a chapter and verse for a set amount of time in prayer or study that inoculates preachers from spiritual deception? Why of course there isn’t, and those who think that way are ALREADY deceived. There’s nothing in the Bible that even implies, let alone states, that a pastor (or anyone else) is somehow insulated from deception by virtue of his office, learning, or experience. The Bible does say over and over, “Be not deceived,” “Let no man deceive you,” and “let no man deceive himself.” “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It’s clear that deception is a real threat. To any of us.
The heretic gets real pious. He wants you to think he’s spiritual. He piously assures you that none of his conclusions were arrived at overnight, and that “much time, prayer, scripture study, research, and desperately seeking to ‘Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord’ went into this.” He then offers that statement as a proof that his conclusions are correct. His conclusions are incorrect, and his prayers and studies don’t “prove” anything. That is a dishonest approach, and it indicates the man is deceiving himself. It accomplishes two other things, as well: 1) It indirectly draws attention to his intellect and how much time HE spends studying (there’s that old, carnal nature rearing his head!); after all, heresy is a work of the FLESH, in its initial stage – Gal. 5:20. 2) It passes judgment on everyone who doesn’t go along with his conclusions, as having not done their “due diligence” in their own studies. It’s a proud spirit behind that type of talk.
Much time, study, research, and desperate seeking has gone into “proving” evolution to be correct – and many have believed it. All that is proven by this is the propensity of certain men to deceive themselves, and the gullibility of others for following them. The quantity of time and effort spent on the endeavor of proving evolution is immaterial and irrelevant – it simply isn’t true no matter how long you study it.
Contrariwise, there are many truths that can be learned much faster than “overnight,” and the quickness with which they are learned is not an indication of falsehood. Sinners can be taught they are on their way to hell without Christ, shown the truth of the Gospel from the Bible, and believe it and trust Christ as their Saviour in less than twenty minutes. The only factor that time plays in the situation is, the longer it takes a man to believe the truth, the more foolish and deceived that man proves to be. What fool would pass on the great deal he’s being offered in the free gift of eternal life? You have to be highly educated to be that stupid.
The heretic or charlatan wants you to believe he’s “worked long and hard to unlock mysteries and uncover secret, hidden truths (see the dead sea scrolls, or the ‘lost gospel of Kermit the frog,’ etc.) that have been withheld from the masses for centuries by the forces of evil” [wicked laughter]. What would make someone think the truth of the Bible is so complex it has to be researched for weeks and months to discover it? This sort of approach is for the sake of nothing but self-promotion. In other words, the harder you make it appear to discover the truth, the harder it looks like YOU worked to discover it.
Essential Biblical truth is simple, and the simpler the approach, the quicker the understanding comes. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psa. 119:130). Even a child can get a hold of the truth – “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15). There is, however, one who is interested in complicating things. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3) There are some complexities in the Bible, of course; but the complexities will always be found in the non-essentials (see the question of the length of Ahaziah’s reign, or compare the accounts on Solomon’s horses and stables, for example). The problem most people have with the truth of the Bible is believing it, not discovering it. It’s right there in black and white.
You’ve “prayed about” the truth you’ve discovered, have you? You’ve fasted and sought God’s face about taking that job that’s going to carry you away from church? You’ve prayed about marrying that guy or girl, have you? If you have, good. Now then; what was God’s answer to your prayers? Folks, “the Spirit leads as the Book reads.” You better check your motives and submit your will to God’s Will, and get some honest answers out of the Book before you run off bragging about having “asked the Lord” about it. The shotgun is liable to go off in your face because you didn’t hang around long enough to hear the Father’s response.