Praying for guidance does not come naturally. Personally, I want to decide on my own and “fix it” myself. Praying and relying on God’s guidance often comes as an afterthought. I seek the guidance from everyone else around me instead of from the One who ultimately knows best.
In the Old Testament, kings who followed God sought guidance from the prophets. God honored their wisdom in seeking His will. When the king sought guidance related to battle, the Lord would deliver victory to the king. When the king and people of Israel turned their faces away from God, they “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. They turned to worshipping their own idols and seeking their own will. As a result, God became angry and allowed their cities to be ravaged by invaders and their land destroyed.
In the New Testament, Jesus gave us a new path to seeking God’s guidance. In John 16, before He was arrested, Jesus told the disciples that He would be leaving them. It was necessary for Him to leave because they would be given a Spirit of Truth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” (John 16:13 CSB) God gave us Jesus so we could be forgiven of our sins. In His kindness, God didn’t stop there, not only are we eternally forgiven, but the Holy Spirit becomes our internal voice that guides us in decisions and our spiritual path.
When I was little, I took piano lessons from our church pianist. For some reason, when it was time to play for my piano recital, I decided to attempt reading the music and playing without my glasses. I didn’t like my glasses, so I decided to lay them beside me on the bench. Even at a young age, my eyesight was horrible, thus my performance was a struggle. I muddled through and knew I had made a huge mistake in trying to play without clarity. Often, we try to do the same thing with life. We go about our day, making decisions that we could use a little extra clarity on. The Holy Spirit is like a pair of glasses. We have to choose to put them on in order to see more clearly.
When I pray for guidance, I ask to “hear” Him. I ask for the Spirit to show me clarity in what choice I should make in a situation. This has been a frequent prayer regarding my daughter living with fibromyalgia. I have prayed over treatment options. There have been many people in my life that have kindly offered an abundance of advice regarding her care. The Spirit of Truth has helped me recognize which advice is wisdom we should consider and what is something I should appreciate, but move away from. The Spirit of Truth has guided me away from well meaning doctors that didn’t offer the help what we needed at the time and toward people that would help us make more progress in her care. Have I always made the right decisions every time? No. By God’s grace, “He works everything out for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).
Its difficult to describe what its like to “hear” God. The voice of the Spirit isn’t a loud voice that I hear in my ears. Its this sensation of a word or phrase that I feel overwhelming my soul. While some describe it as a “still small voice”, it isn’t so for me. When I know I am hearing God, He says things that hadn’t already been thinking on my own and my heart starts pounding. Thankfully when God wants me to hear Him, he has graciously directed me away from certain situations. His guidance has told me “NO” quite frequently, but I have also heard Him comfort and encourage me in difficult situations. In Luke 24:32, the disciples described their encounter with the resurrected Lord as their “hearts burning” within as He talked to them on the road to Emmaus. This is more like the sensation I feel when I know the spirit is talking to me.
Praying for guidance is what God wants us to do. He wouldn’t have given us the Spirit of Truth to guide us “into all truth” if He didn’t want us to pray to the Spirit for that guidance. Knowing what that “sounds” like is key. In John 10, Jesus shares how His “sheep” (those who follow Him and know Him), know His voice. Sheep aren’t going to follow a shepherd whose voice they don’t know. If you want to know the voice of the Spirit you have to spend time with Him in prayer, asking to hear His voice. Eventually, you will be able to sense when you are guided by the Spirit. Making an effort to put on the spiritual glasses will give you clarity when you need it most.