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Praying at the crossroads

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The baseball legend Yogi Berra offered humorous and seemingly contradictory advice when he said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” All of us come to proverbial “forks in the road” when the choices we should make or the directions we should take are not immediately obvious. Certainly, some challenges are moral in nature; and the Bible can be clear regarding those instances. But, what about the myriad of decisions we are called upon to make in the absence of a specific biblical passage: Which college offer will you accept? Who should you marry? What career pursuit makes the most sense? Should you invest in Bitcoin? Hundreds of choices do not come with a chapter and verse to help clarify our positions. We are left at a crossroads. 

The problem of indecision is not limited to or even necessarily typified by Christians. In fact, the inability to make simple choices is a growing dilemma. A 2021 study from the American Psychological Association reported in NPR found that one-third of Americans feel overwhelmed by the process of decision-making and find it increasingly difficult to make choices. 

For believers, the process of making important decisions differs from our unbelieving neighbors. Our decision-making involves more than merely our personal interests, a desire to maintain the status quo, or spread sheets comparing pros and cons. We want to know God’s will. The missionary writer Elizabeth Elliot once framed the significance of our choices and God’s will in stark relief. She said, “The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God…or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.” 

The Scripture offers abundant guidance for real-life situations, but no passage says, “Marry Tina” or “Thou shalt attend the University of Texas.” No biblical concordance leads us to the chapter and verse about which prescription drug benefit option is best for our Medicare plan. The specific, personal nature of numerous important decisions calls us to prayer. When we find ourselves at the crossroads of uncertainty, how can prayer help with the choices we make in life? Here’s a hint – we’ve got history. 

A leader’s prayers at the crossroads

President Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, has been credited with saying about the CIA, “Often in error, never in doubt.” That kind of exaggerated self-confidence may exemplify some leaders, but uncertainty is at least an occasional factor in most people’s lives. For instance, King Jehoshaphat of Judah ruled for 25 years in the 9th century BC. He was a true follower of God and a good king, but he was once overwhelmed at the crossroads of urgency and indecision. An international army, an axis of evil nations, was coming to overthrow Jehoshaphat’s small kingdom; and he was nearly paralyzed with uncertainty. His response is a lasting lesson for us. 

Uncertainty, faith and prayer

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom’s twentieth-century advice could have been tailored for King Jehoshaphat who lived 2900 years ago. When he learned of the invasion headed his direction, he was terrified at the prospect of catastrophic military defeat (2 Chronicles 20:2-3). In spite of his fear, however, the Jewish King acted appropriately by turning to God in prayer. As he expressed his uncertainty about the possibility of a crushing loss in battle, he simultaneously declared his faith in God. He prayed, “…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). He was praying at the crossroads. He didn’t know what to do except pray. Prayer is always a good choice.

Gather a prayer team 

King Jehoshaphat intuitively understood the power of the prayer meeting. In the face of his anxiety and uncertainty about the frightening future, he “…set his face to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah and Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord. From all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (vv. 3-4). If ever the old expression “two heads are better than one” were true, it’s when we gather for a dynamic prayer meeting! As Christians we should understand that since the Church was born in a prayer meeting (Acts 1:14ff). Prayer meetings are us. Armin Gesswein reminded us that “the early church didn’t attend a prayer meeting; the early church was a prayer meeting.” When we come to the crossroads of uncertainty, our first reaction, if possible, should be to gather in prayer with other faith-filled believers. If a prayer meeting isn’t already scheduled, then we should organize it. There is awesome power in united, extraordinary prayer.

Transparency in prayer leads to transformation in prayer

Craig Groeschel, on his popular podcast, frequently says, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.” This kind of transparent leadership was obvious in King Jehoshaphat who honestly admitted, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12). His transparency led to transformation as God stepped into his passionate prayer at the crossroads and turned an impossible situation into a miraculous intervention. In what can only be described as a direct answer to prayer, a Spirit-filled prophet in the prayer meeting stepped forward to remind the anxious king and the worried people that their greatest asset wasn’t their army but their God. While they prayed the man shouted, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s’” (v. 15). 

As a result of their prayer meeting at the crossroads of urgent need and trembling faith, God led Jehoshaphat’s army to accomplish the impossible by defeating the overwhelming enemy. When we don’t know what to do, prayer is always in order. 

Every choice we make can be brought to God in prayer. We will not always know what to do. We may sometimes be overwhelmed. But prayer has never overwhelmed God. He wants us to pray; and He wants to answer, and He will meet us at the crossroads.

    About the Author

  • Kie Bowman

    Kie Bowman is senior pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas and the SBC National Director of Prayer.

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