I recently pre-ordered the new book by Chip and Dan Heath called Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. One of the main points in the book goes like this:
Prepare to Be Wrong: we are overconfident, thinking we know how the future will unfold when we really don’t. We should prepare for bad outcomes as well as good ones. And what would make us reconsider our decisions? We can set tripwires that snap us to attention at the right moments.
That reminded me of one of my standard prayers: “God, please derail me.”
Praying Against Myself
I was almost finished with college, and I was really feeling the pull toward seminary. I had been toying with seminary since high school (even though it requires an undergraduate degree), so I thought I shouldn’t delay anymore. As a result, I didn’t apply to any job interviews through my college.
But then a funny thing happened: I had two job interviews show up on my schedule, even though I didn’t apply for them. I decided to go just for fun. Then I got an invitation to a follow-up interview on-site.
After a full day at the company, I prayed something like this:
God, I believe you are calling me into ministry. I believe I am called to start immediately and not delay. If I am wrong, change my plans. I guess I’ll go to work instead of seminary if I get a job offer from <particular division> at <particular company>. Otherwise, I’m going to seminary.
The next day I got a job offer from that division within that company. I accepted the job on the spot.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:25:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
I can do all the right things when trying to figure out God’s will…and still be wrong. So my last prayer with big decisions is for God to change my mind if he has a better plan in mind.
If you want a great book on the process of figuring out God’s will as best you can, I recommend The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels.
His five filters for testing what you “hear from God” are:
- Is this truly from God?
- Is this Scriptural?
- Is this wise?
- Is this in tune with your character?
- What do the people I trust think about this?
The quote from Decisive talks about setting tripwires to help you know when to reconsider your decisions. That’s what I did when I set a very specific way for God to change my mind.
Please note, however, that you can totally abuse this practice. “God, I’ll change my mind if you give me a winning lotto ticket.” Remember that God is too smart to fall for something like that. If you’re trying to manipulate God with your tripwire, it’s not going to work. He made you. He knows what you’re up to.
- Use every tool at your disposal to figure out God’s will
- Pray for God to change your mind if he has a better plan
- Set some tripwires: tangible ways for God to show you that you’re wrong
- When have you tried to figure out God’s will for one of your big decisions?
- When have you been wrong about God’s will for you? How did you know?
- What are you trying to figure out right now? Are you praying for God to change your mind if he has a better plan?