Study 2 THE PRAYER FOR SPECIAL GUIDANCE
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Genesis 24: 10-27
In this chapter we have the account of Abraham’s commission to his chief servant to go in search of a bride for Isaac. Abraham was getting very old (Genesis 24:1) and Isaac at this time was over forty years of age and still unmarried. Please read verses 2-9 carefully. In verses 9 and 10 we have the record of the way this chief servant prepared for his journey and then set out to go to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, to look for a bride for Isaac. Abraham was much in prayer about this, as is suggested by the words at the end of verse 7; but so was Abraham’s servant, as verse 12 tells us. How could he possibly choose the right girl unless he received some special guidance in the matter? He not only needed guidance in a general sense, but he needed it in a very special sense, and here it is important to notice that the guidance that God gives to His children may be general or special.
By general guidance. As we walk with the Lord each day He guides us in a general sense. We may not be conscious of our need of this but He oversees our steps. See Psalm 37:23.
By special guidance. There are times when we need special guidance concerning particular needs or decisions that have to be taken. It is then that we ask God to give us special guidance, and He does so.
Now notice the sequence of teaching in this passage of scripture concerning the prayer for special guidance.
1. Abraham’s servant needed special guidance.
He was to set out in search of a bride for his master’s son. It was rather like looking for a needle in a haystack! He needed God to direct his steps (see Jeremiah 10:23). If God did not direct his steps he could not fulfil his task and he might make a wrong choice. Perhaps at this moment you are in need of special guidance concerning a career, who you should marry, where you should live, whether the Lord is calling you into the ministry or overseas to serve Him. Now, all these important decisions need special guidance. You have to make a decision. Abraham’s servant knew his need for God to guide him.
2. Abraham’s servant believed that God could and would guide him.
This fact is brought out as we read the first part of the chapter. There is no doubt that this chief servant had the assurance that God was willing to guide him. At the end of verse 7 we have the words of Abraham which gave assurance to his servant, and the prayer that is recorded in verse 12 is a prayer that is offered with the same assurance. We too have wonderful words of assurance, not from Abraham, but from God Himself, that He is willing and ready to guide us, and for a few examples of these look up Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6 and 16:3; Isaiah 58:11. The Lord is always more willing to guide us than we are to be guided, and a New Testament illustration of the way in which He sometimes does this is found in Acts 8:5 and 26-40.
3. Abraham’s servant asked God to give him special guidance.
In verse 12 we have the servant’s prayer. It is simple and direct, and it reveals the fact that this man was certainly in close fellowship with God. Alexander Maclaren says that, ‘The first condition of securing real guidance in our daily life is to ask for it, the next is to look for it, and the third is to be willing to accept it, whether the finger points down the broad road that we would like to go upon or through some tangled path that we would avoid.’ Surely these words seem to sum up the attitude of Abraham’s servant. In his case it was a very big thing concerning which guidance was needed. Does God guide in the big decisions? He most certainly does! But He also gives us guidance just as clearly concerning the little things when we bring our needs to Him and ask Him to direct our steps – look again at the prayer in verse 12. Is it possible for a child of God to pray, “Give me success today!” and not to receive from God Himself the guidance which is so much needed?
4. Abraham’s servant asked God to give him a special sign.
Verses 13-14 raise the question: Was this man wrong in acting in this way? – and the answer is ‘No’. It shows us that he wanted to be absolutely sure of his guidance, and he was to be commended for that. Anything that we do that is for the glory of God and for His good pleasure must be right. F. B. Meyer says, “We have no right to ask for signs for the gratification of a morbid curiosity, but we are justified in asking for the concurrence of outward providence indicating the will of God.” Turn to Judges 6:36-40 for another instance of a man of God asking for a sign from God.
5. Abraham’s servant received the special guidance for which he prayed.
The words “before he had finished praying…” (verse 15) remind us of Isaiah 65:24, and the words “Without saying a word, the man watched her closely…” (verse 21) remind us of Isaiah 28:16 – so read verses 15-27 carefully and see how marvellously God answered this man’s prayer and showed him what His will was concerning the choice of a bride for Isaac.
It is most important that we apply this study to ourselves and to our own circumstances and that we do not imagine that because all this happened 4000 years ago it cannot or does not happen today. God is still the same, and He still desires to give us that special guidance. Read the account again in Genesis 24:1-27, and especially note the servant’s true humility as he got down low before the Lord to make known his needs and his pure motive, as he desired his prayer to be answered for the sake of Abraham, his master; and as, above all else, he desired to be pleasing to God his Heavenly Father – look up Genesis 24:48.