When We Want God to Adopt a Different Course of Action

  Many prayers in the Bible amaze us with their speaker’s steadfast faith in the face
of sustained attack. Others prompt us to raise an eyebrow and ask, “Are you
serious?” Let’s consider several instances in which people of faith asked God
to change circumstances or asked him to consider making a deal with them. This
latter construction of prayer has gained some notoriety in modern “urban
legends.” A Soldier, for example, under heavy fire and with seemingly no hope
for rescue promises God that if he survives, he will enter the ministry. That
prayer somewhat resembles Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 28:20-22 -“If God will
be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me
food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house,
then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will
be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”  Another person may pledge that if God takes my proposed course of action, I will give some great gift, a pledge again similar to Jephthah’s prayer in Judges 11.  Jephthah, a military leader, pledged that if God gave him victory, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing to come out of his house when he returned home. The term “course of action” or “COA” which I use in the title comes from a component of the Military Decision Making Process. When a unit receives its commander’s intent as to an impending mission, they work to put together two to three distinct alternative COAs that might accomplish the mission. Sometimes in
life, it may seem that God needs to consider an alternative COA. We may tell
him this in prayer. Jacob and Jephthah received positive answers to their
prayers, yet each suffered hardship and tragic loss in the process of receiving
that for which they prayed.  When we pray for a different COA, perhaps we then need to consider carefully the potential consequences of getting what we think we want or accept that there will be pain as God molds each of us into his person.  We definitely must weigh carefully what we will promise God when we pray. How does our desire compare to God’s (the Commander’s) intent? What might we have to adjust to align our goals better to his? Don’t hesitate to tell God how you feel or what you want, but decide whether you can live with the consequences if God says, “Yes!”

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About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. He currently preaches for a Church of Christ in Leavenworth, Kansas. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael runs more than twenty miles most weeks, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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