The power of pausing during prayer

When we face a challenge, a dilemma, or even a crisis…we tend to search high and low for the easy answer.   We cry out to God, asking him to give us the magic pill that will make it all go away!  We call our mom or our girlfriends, and we whine and complain about the problem, hoping they will have the magical, painless answer to our situation.  Well, here’s the thing.  The answer isn’t easy, but it is simple.  Seek God’s counsel and then actually pause to listen. 

Proverbs 18:13 says “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”  Yet, that is exactly what many of us do.  We complain to God.  We pray that he would magically fix our situation in the way that WE say is best, and yet, we don’t actually consult the Bible to see what guidance he has for us.  We pray that God would tell us what to do about the problem, yet we don’t actually pause to listen for the Holy Spirit’s quiet whisper of guidance.

The answer is simple.  Dive into God’s Word.  It will guide you.  Psalm 119:105 says. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”   Ask God to give you direction through a quiet whisper to your spirit from the Holy Spirit, who is our counselor.  John 14:26 says (in the Amplified Bible), “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf, He will teach you all things.”

Gaining guidance from God

In any relationship, especially a marriage, there are going to be times when the two of you are in conflict.  Perhaps your husband is breaking your heart through wrong behavior.  At each of those times, we have to make really big decisions.  Should I confront my husband on an issue where he appears to be out of line?  Should I keep quiet and press into prayer, relying on the Holy Spirit to work in my husband’s heart?  Should I compromise on an issue where we’ve been in conflict?

At these times, counsel from other godly women is very helpful, but honestly, my very best guidance comes from God himself.  I just need to take a few moments to be quiet with Him and ask Him to speak direction into my mind and heart.  Psalm 142:3 says “When my spirit faints within me, you know my way.”   When I pause, close my eyes, and ask God in prayer to give me direction, I often sense a gentle nudge, or a prompting, or I feel like He’s speaking a word of direction into my mind in that moment.  Unless the “prompting” goes against what the Bible would say, I trust that God has just spoken to me.

I did this recently on an issue between me and a close relative.  I thought for sure I should make a certain decision, but once I spent just a few moments quieting myself and asking God to speak His counsel into my mind, I received guidance to go the exact opposite direction!  He even allowed me to see why my original idea was flawed. Try this yourself.  God is waiting at the door of your mind and heart.  Open the door and let Him in.

Leave room for the Holy Spirit

The other day, a relative said some things about a person I love that I really found hurtful.  My first instinct was to emotionally withdraw from that person…but that’s a dysfunctional behavior I’m trying to end.  So, I started to tell that person what I really thought about their comments!  Thank God, the Holy Spirit gently stopped me.

You see, sometimes God wants us to confront someone who is sinning against us or doing something wrong.  But other times, God wants us to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the convicting in that other person’s heart, especially if that person is a believer.  In John 16:7-8, Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”   Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, and he explained that one of the Spirit’s jobs is to convict people of sin.

What I’m learning is that I need to pause and consult God when someone is doing something that wounds me or bothers me.  I need to ask God for direction.  Does God want me to respectfully and lovingly confront that person, or does God want me to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the confronting. 

Back to my story. When God stopped me from laying into my relative the other day and I decided to leave the “confrontation” up to the Holy Spirit…that relative actually came to me and apologized within a few hours. Today’s question for you:  Do you pause long enough to get guidance from God before reacting?

How to receive God’s guidance

We all want to receive guidance from the Lord. You may need to make a decision in your marriage or with your children or regarding your work situation, and you wonder which way to go.  Well, the good news is that God promises to guide us!  Psalm 32:8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  The tricky thing is figuring out exactly how to access his counsel!

Here are two primary ways to access his wisdom and his counsel.  The first is….spending time reading His Word.  Duh.  But how many times do we come up with excuses as to why we don’t have the time or energy to spend much time reading the Bible?  Maybe it’s time to stop making excuses and DECIDE to make Bible reading a priority in your life.  I bet you make time to brush your teeth and take a shower, so why can’t you carve out 15 minutes for reading the Bible every morning?  😊  Reading the Bible will give you direct guidance on so many decisions you’ll need to make throughout any given day.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Next, spend time worshipping God and in “listening prayer”.  When we worship God, he draws near, and he longs to whisper to us through His Holy Spirit if we will strain to listen for that whisper to our souls.  1 Kings 19:12 “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  So try this.  Put on some worship music, or start singing a worship song. As you praise Him, close your eyes and envision God with you.  Now ask Him to whisper guidance to your heart.  Strain to listen. Did he give you a vision or nudge your heart in some way?  I believe He will guide you.  Just make sure that anything you believe you hear from God does not contradict what He says in the Bible.

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Are you multiple-choicing Jesus?

I don’t know about you, but I fall into a really crazy and unproductive pattern when I seek God for advice and direction.  I intend to be a good listener, but instead of quieting myself and really straining for God to speak to me through his Holy Spirit, I keep….talking!  In fact, one second after I ask God the question “what should I do about …..?”, I start mulling over the options.  My thoughts start ricocheting in my head and after a few minutes, I feel like I’ve boiled down the choices to 3 or 4 options for God to choose from. Yikes! 

The other day I found myself doing this again.  This time, however, I heard God speak a word of correction (or what some might call rebuke!).  I heard him say “Why are you multiple-choicing me?”  He reminded me that He doesn’t need me to lay out options from which to choose.  He reminded me that, often, his answer or direction is not even listed among my multiple-choice options!  I heard him whisper to my spirit, “What if my answer is “e” and you have only given me A-D from which to choose?”

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that I need to do less talking and more listening. This is the essence of James 1:19  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

By the way, one tip that has helped me quiet my thoughts so I can actually hear the Lord’s whisper of guidance is this:  Close your eyes and envision being with the Lord. (I like to envision walking beside him in a beautiful meadow next to a quiet stream).  Then, while your mind is occupied with that vision, ask your question.  Within a few moments, I usually sense Him whispering a word to me, or giving me a vision, or bringing a Bible verse to mind that will guide me.

The healthy way to seek advice

If you’re going through some challenges with your husband right now, it’s really wise to seek godly counsel from another woman. Often another woman can see the situation more objectively.  A godly woman can encourage you to persevere through challenges instead of giving up.  Sometimes, another woman can help you see the need to set wise boundaries on unacceptable behavior.   It’s also really wise to reach out to a few godly women who you know will pray for you and your husband.

However, there’s a fine line between seeking godly support and husband-bashing!  Sometimes, we go beyond seeking advice and prayer support and we start gossiping and whining about our husbands.  That’s not constructive and it’s very disrespectful to your husband.  Let’s keep in mind God’s instruction to wives in Ephesians 5:33…”The wife must respect her husband“.

So check your heart before you pick up that phone to whine to a friend.  Check your motives before you start complaining about your husband to another woman. Are you telling dishonoring stories about him in great detail and listing all of his faults…or are you actually looking for guidance and prayer support? Pay attention to the words you’re texting or speaking.  Are they disrespectful or honoring to your husband? 

Don’t confide in your relatives

I’ve learned something pivotal over my many years of helping women navigate marriage problems.  In general, don’t share your husband’s faults and failures with your family of origin!  The reason is simple.  Your parents, siblings and grandparents not only love you, but are often overly-protective when it comes to you.   They can’t stand the thought of anyone wounding a member of their family.  Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, their allegiance to you can often turn into the vilification of your husband!

Allow me to explain.  Once a wife openly shares the faults, failures or sins of her husband with her relatives, he may be forever stained in their eyes.  Many parents and siblings will begin treating the husband as the enemy.  Sometimes, those relatives develop deep resentment toward the husband.  Once those strong feelings have developed, it’s often hard to turn that ship around, even if the husband has repented of wrong-doing!  He will always have a black mark next to his name.

This is what I would suggest doing.  You definitely SHOULD seek advice and wise counsel as you’re working through difficult seasons in your marriage, but, in general, avoid confiding in your relatives.  If you sense that your relatives are quick to forgive and refuse to hold onto resentment, perhaps you can safely confide in them.  Otherwise, seek counsel elsewhere, such as a women’s ministry leader, Christian counselor, or wise older Christian woman in your life.  You need the kind of wisdom described in James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

— or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW