Stop Praying and Move: How to Make a Decision When You Can’t Hear God

Simple Takeaway:

We stall out on our ideas, dreams, and plans because we’re not sure if it’s what we’re called to do. But God places a high value on free will, and he would rather teach you how to think – through an intimate knowledge of his character – than to simply tell you what to do.

When you pull up to a stop sign at the exact same time as another car across the intersection from you, you basically have three options:

  1. The sit and wait strategy: wave and flash your lights violently at the other person telling them to go
  2. The press and pray strategy: don’t check up; mash the gas and hope the other person isn’t taking the same approach
  3. The third option is indecision: where both cars go down a helpless spiral of “no, you first” that leaves you questioning the other person’s intelligence

None of these options are great.

But did you know there’s actually a methodology to getting through this situation? 

  • The vehicle to the right goes first.
  • If the vehicles are across from each other, then the one that’s not turning goes first. 
  • If both cars are across from each other and one’s turning right and the other’s turning left, then the right-of-way goes to the one turning right (hence the term “right-of-way”). 

Boom. Revelation. 

Doesn’t that take the stress out of trying to figure out how to do it on your own?

This is how it feels when we’re trying to decide what we’re being called to do.

We stall out on our ideas, dreams, and plans because we’re not sure if it’s what we should be doing.

So, we do one of three things:

  • Decide to sit still and wait until we’re forced to move
  • Go full steam ahead and pray that it all works out
  • Hem and haw between decisiveness and indecision while we wait on some secret source of certainty to remove all doubt

But what if we embraced the fact that we’ve been given guides – the Bible and the Holy Spirit – so we don’t have to play this painful game of indecision? 

These guides tell us how to think and not what to think, which makes decision-making a heck of a lot easier.

We grossly underestimate the value God places on free will. 

All throughout history, we see God giving people choices and blessing the ones that lineup with his heart through closeness with him.

Moses and Joshua understood the power of free will. Joshua told the Israelites, “if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,” then he said, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

It’s no wonder God later told Joshua and the Israelites with him that they could have “every place where you set your foot” as they approached the Promised Land. (Joshua 1:3)

Joshua learned at least some of this from his mentor Moses. Moses understood that God gives us free will to act in accordance with him or to act against him. Moses told the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The examples of God giving humans the ability to act on their own in accordance with his character go on and on:

  • God let Adam name the animals. (Genesis 2:20)
  • He gave Noah dimensions for the ark but let him choose how to build it.
  • He let Abraham choose his path while he traveled. (Genesis 12:10)
  • He let David choose his destination when he was on the run. (1 Samuel 22:1)
  • He let David decide when it was time to be king even though David could have killed Saul and became king earlier if he wanted.
  • God let the apostles decide where to preach the gospel. (Acts 8:4)
  • He let Paul decide where to go on his evangelical missions. (Acts 19:21)

All throughout the Bible, there’s example after example of God giving us choices.

There are certainly times when he chooses for us, but more often than not, he lets us choose based on our understanding of his will.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says do not be foolish but know the will of God

Romans 12 tells us that as our mind is transformed, we will know the will of God. 

When Paul talked about commissioning pastors and elders, he said if they desire to be overseers then they desire a good thing (1 Timothy 3:1). He didn’t tell them to go pray about it and see if God would have them be overseers.

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea and started crying out to God because they felt trapped, God asked them why they were praying to him, and he told them to move forward (Exodus 14:15). He was challenging their faith because their prayers were prayers from fear when the moment required action from faith.

To choose to move forward and act based on your intimate knowledge of God’s character, trusting in what God has already said, requires much more faith than sitting still and waiting after you’ve already heard from God.

It’s much more valuable to stay close to God so he can teach you how to think than it is to pray for him to tell you what to do. 

God would much rather you be close with him than you only coming to him when you need answers.

Here’s a unique and controversial idea:

Many times, God is waiting for us to make a choice based on our closeness with him and our understanding of his heart. 

But we don’t like that because it requires faith and action, and we would much rather sit still and pray.

James said faith without works is dead. It isn’t a lesser form of faith – it’s dead. (James 2:17)

Put faith into action by doing the hard work of getting to know God’s heart instead of waiting on his hand to physically move you. 

Because that work – the work of learning how to think rather than waiting until we know what to do – is the work that leads us to being more intimate with God and more compassionate towards people.