Recently I have been struggling with a practice that I see commonly among my fellow Christians. It is something that, admittedly, I have done on several occasions. It is the practice of praying that God will provide me with knowledge. Chances are, if you’ve been a Christian for very long, then you’ve also done this. The times that I did this most often and earnestly were when I was considering accepting a job. My prayers would sound something like this – “Dear God, please make it clear to me whether or not I should accept this job. Don’t be ambiguous. Just tell me!”

Now, whenever I hear someone praying this way, I would think to myself, “That’s a good prayer. I hope that God tells them what to do or think.” And then something kind of funny started to happen which has caused me to rethink this tactic. While discussing theological matters with some friends on a number of occasions, I have heard things like, “Well, we are finite beings who will never really understand God. So, what I do when I can’t make sense of something is I just pray and ask that the Holy Spirit reveals to me what is true and what is not.”

What?!? Now all these alarms are going off in my head, and red flags are flying like a flock of angry birds. That’s a terrible way to do theology! There’s no accountability with that. That’s how cults get started. That’s howMormonism got started.  This sounds a lot more like Gnosticism than orthodox Christianity.  Why bother studying at all if all we really need to do to have a complete and flawless theology is to ask God? The way I’ve tended to see this is as an attempt at one last trump card when someone can’t out-think you. I can have someone so well cornered with Scripture and reason that it no longer becomes a question of evidence, when out of left field comes this bombshell of subjective truth. Honestly, whenever someone throws me this curveball, in my mind I throw my hands up in the air and assume that they just don’t want to change their minds … pure and simple.

But now, thinking about it, I’m not so sure.  So I pose this question to you – where does this approach to theology (or prayer in general) come from? Is this really how Christians ought to come to truth?

Two Scriptural considerations…

  1. People often cite James 1:5 in favor of this approach – “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, andit will be given to him.” Before the conversation ever goes down this road, I’d like to cut it off by pointing out that James here is talking about “wisdom,” not “knowledge.” As often as contemporary believers use these terms interchangeably, they are two very different concepts in Scripture. Knowledge is an awareness of truths, and wisdom is the ability to discern unclear truths. I’m all for asking God for the ability to discern what is true based on available evidence (“Dear God, help me make sense of Romans 9”), but I’m not so in favor of asking God to just tell me truths (“Dear God, tell me which is true – Calvinism or Arminianism?”)
  2. There are a number of passages that I have yet to square with, one of which is 1 Corinthians 12:8. This passage mentions the spiritual gift, “word of knowledge.” Is this what people are referring to when they “just ask God what is true”? Do you have to have this spiritual gift for that approach to theology to work? Also, John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27 talk about the Holy Spirit being a teacher to us. Does this mean that, like a Sunday school teacher, all we have to do is ask the Spirit to spell it out for us and He will?

I honestly don’t have a good answer for this one. On the one hand, it seems so cheap and subjective to simply ask God to tell me things; but on the other hand, I don’t yet have a good explanation for these and other passages that seem to depict God just telling people stuff. So, I’m going to start doing some studying. However, in the meantime, I really do want your input, and I promise that I will bend my beliefs toward wherever the evidence leads (… or maybe I won’t?) Thanks!

Ready for another article?

Rocky Munoz
Jesus-follower, husband, daddy, amateur theologian, former youth pastor, nerd, and coffee snob. Feel free to email me at almostheresy@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter (@rockstarmunoz)


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