Asking God for a sign seems harmless enough. There is even a common expression for it called “putting out the fleece” based on the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36-40. However, asking God for a sign is something that has gone the way of sacrificing sheep on altars. It is not a part of our present relationship with God. To ask for signs is to deny the gift of the Holy Spirit, and its purpose for us: to grow and mature.
The “Last Sign”
The last time praying for signs or divination was done in Scriptures was when the disciples drew lots to choose the replacement for Judas in Acts 1:26. In the very next chapter, we read about the day of Pentecost, where Christ sends us the Holy Spirit. After that, no one asked for signs, cast lots, or rolled dice again to determine “the will of God.” While "putting out the fleece" was common before the incarnation of Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit was the end of the usefulness of such rituals.
Pray for Wisdom, not Signs
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who give generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.
- James 1:5 (ESV)
When faced with difficult decisions or choices, God doesn’t want us waiting to be told what to do. Our job is to use good judgement, good counsel, and our own convictions. When we go to God in prayer, we are not asking to be told what to do, we are asking for the wisdom to know what to do. The best decisions in life are the ones we make with peace in hearts, owning the consequences and taking responsibility for our actions.
If We Are Lost or Confused, Then We Need to Grow
Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may
discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:2 (ESV)
If we just can’t figure out the right thing to do in a circumstance, then we likely need some growth, maturity, and education. Spending time in prayer is a great way to give the Holy Spirit time to help us examine our hearts, our minds, our expectations, our assumptions, and our true underlying desires. Most of the time we are confused about the world, it is because we are confused about who we are ourselves. We can’t understand the whole world, but understanding who we are in Christ, is key to making wise decisions regardless of circumstances.
Sometimes We Need to Fail
The underlying motive for praying for a sign is a “God bargain.” God tells us what to do, and then in return we know everything will “be OK.” We want God to give us a sign so we don’t have to have responsibility for our actions. The idea that if we are doing the “will of God” we won’t fail or, worse, that failure or pain is a sign that we going “against God” is wrong. Life is messy, difficult, and full of surprises. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you get to skip out on all the fun. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy or pain free, often just the opposite.
“so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
- Matthew 5:45 (ESV)
Practice Makes Perfect
“Hey, doesn’t the Bible say, ‘lean not on your own understanding’? What about ‘let go and let God’?”
Look, this is not about God’s sovereignty. God is sovereign, but that should give us confidence to practice making decisions, not avoid them. God takes care of us, but that is the confidence by which we practice taking care of ourselves and others. Our job isn’t to “get it right” our job is to practice. By prayer and practice, the Holy Spirit can work in us toward perfection.