By Terry Looper, author of Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019).
Plenty of things keep us from hearing the Spirit’s voice or being confident of God’s will in our decisions. Everything from our impatience or impulsiveness to unconfessed sin, cultural influences, even doubt. But if my own mistakes have taught me anything, it’s that one of my greatest hindrances is approaching the Lord with my mind already made up. In those instances, I’m actually not engaging God at all; I’m asking him to sign off on my wishes.
None of us does this consciously, but it’s very easy to fall into this trap.
God’s sacred pace—my term for the four steps I use to peacefully and confidently discern God’s will for my important decisions—delivers us from both this “rush to conclusions” and the trouble that comes from relying on our own shortsighted understanding. Seventeenth-century theologian John Owen recognized, “We can have no power from Christ, unless we live in a persuasion that we have none of our own.” Jesus said in John 15:5: “Without me you can do nothing” (NKJV). He wasn’t using hyperbole; he meant nothing.
To “consult my Friend Jesus” in prayer as the first step in my decisions helps to “unmake” my mind and start me toward a sacred pace. It softens my heart and inclines my ears toward him. Reminds me that I’m not God. And gives the Great Revealer, the Holy Spirit, time to peel away the layers to get to my true desires and intentions—all of which is important for preparing myself to receive God’s answers.
We seldom know best. It’s just a fact. But Jesus always does. And he always cares—about us and the people we care about—even more than we do. So when I’m faced with a decision, I consciously try to slow down and ask him, “What do you want me to do?” As he shows me each step through his Spirit, I try to be responsive, just as I’d be with a friend or family member who’s helping me with my best interests in mind.
I’m well aware that not everyone is comfortable with perceiving Jesus as their friend. Many Christians I know struggle with this. Yet Jesus himself said to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NKJV). He wants intimacy and relationship! With us! He’s excited and pleased when we invite him into our lives.
Not only that, but he won’t ever give us a bad answer, because he already knows the Father’s will. Personally, this makes me want to involve him even more!
To shut Jesus out is not just foolishness, but according to John Piper, “A prayerless Christian is like a bus driver trying alone to push his bus out of a rut because he doesn’t know Clark Kent is on board.”
Jesus is eager and able to help us on our way. Our divine Companion has promised to faithfully come alongside us when we look to him. So don’t hesitate. Anytime you’re unsure about what to do, grab some one-on-one time with him and . . .
- Pray first. Instead of worrying. Psalm 37:7–8 reminds us: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; . . . do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Worry makes us hurry, and we all know the damage that hurry can do.
- Pray to understand your role. This is one of my primary goals in connecting with Jesus early on in a situation. It’s easy to run ahead with my ideas or to expect him to take care of everything. As partners, however, I want to make sure I’m not asking Jesus to “come down and solve something” when I should instead be “rising up” (in heart and in spirit) to join in his master plan. Doing my part while paying attention to all that he’s doing helps me remember: he’s not some genie in a bottle, operating at my whim; he’s my dear Friend, who loves me like no one else does, and my trusted Partner, who’s working everything together (Rom. 8:28) toward the best course of action.
- Keep praying until you have the answer. Consulting Jesus is not just a “one and done” request every time you’re faced with a decision. Make prayer—and friendship with him—a way of life. You could start each day with Psalm 143:7–9: “Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You” (NKJV), and then offer up Psalm 141:1–2 before you close your eyes at night: “O LORD, I am calling to you. . . . Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering” (NLT). Don’t forget the in-between times either. Ask for his counsel as you’re headed in to meetings and appointments. When you sit down to your computer. As you’re running errands. And each time you open up the next chapter of that book you’re enjoying. I say this because, as we’ll see in Step 3 of the sacred pace process, God can and does use anything in our lives to make his will known.
Pray through your entire decision-making process too. Pray as you’re slowing down. Pray as you’re following through. Pray as you obey.
Most importantly, don’t just pray for God’s answer, but pray to know Jesus better. Yes, he loves you and wants to help you. Yes, he’s right by your side, pointing the way to God’s best for you. But what matters most is that he’s always the answer, no matter your situation.
See other posts in this series:
- Sacred Pace: 4 Steps to Discerning God’s Will in Your Decisions
- Sacred Pace: Step 2 – Gather the Facts
- Sacred Pace: Step 3 – Watch for Circumstances
Sacred Pace is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Terry Looper (@TerryLLooper) is the Founder of Texon LP and has served as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer for almost 30 years. He’s the author of Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself with His Will (W Publishing, 2019). Terry is married to Doris, his wife of 48 years, and has two married daughters and five grandchildren.
Get the most out of your Bible study by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!