How to Determine God’s Will: 7 Tried-and-True Methods

February 18, 2013

How can I know God’s will for my life? Nearly everyone wonders that from time to time, especially when facing a major decision. A friend of mine once asked that very question about a romantic relationship that was turning serious. “Is this the person I should marry,” he wondered?

coin toss pennies luck

To determine God’s will, he decided to flip a coin. The amazing thing is that it worked.

My friend, a bright young attorney, had already prayed about the question but felt no definite leading from the Lord. He had also asked a number of Christian friends for their opinion. Their advice was unanimous: “This relationship shows serious danger signals. Don’t proceed.”

Not satisfied with that answer, he continued to deliberate. One day he reached into his pocket and found that he had a handful of quarters—nine in all. “Okay, God,” he said, “If you really don’t want me to date this girl, then make all these quarters land on heads.” With that, he threw them into the air. All nine landed heads up.

Immediately feeling foolish, he told himself, “That’s ridiculous. God would never do something like that.” He decided to pursue the romance seriously. It was a disastrous relationship and ended badly within a few months.

Could God really speak through a coin toss?

Surprisingly, the Bible contains many examples of God revealing his will through exactly this kind of random indicator (see Exodus 28:30 and Acts 1:21-26 for examples). Yet in our enlightened age, we have abandoned such methods as mere superstition, possibly because we have seen them manipulated or abused.

We now rely primarily on prayer for making important decisions—along with economic forecasts, legal opinions, historical data, market surveys, and other indicators that are far really designed to show us what is most probable or prudent rather than the mind of God.

To seek God’s will, we must get outside our own heads. Prayer is always the first step in seeking God’s will, but to hear his answer clearly we may need to use other means as well.

Here are a seven methods Christians have used for centuries to objectively determine the will of God.

1. Consult Scripture

Scripture contains answers for our more general questions, and it is entirely reliable. Is it okay to get a divorce for any and every reason? Should we be hostile toward people who don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah? Do all Christians have to accept the same standards on matters of conscience?

Those questions are asked and answered in the Bible. Check Scripture first when making any moral or ethical decision.

2. Follow the Church’s Teaching

The Bible is entirely reliable, but it is not always specific. Over the centuries, many more particular questions have been asked and answered by the church in her teachings. Is it permissible to own slaves? Is abortion an acceptable means of birth control? Is the use of force ever justified to prevent the victimization of others?

While there may be disagreement among some Christians about these more particular questions, the teaching of an authentic, biblical denomination may be trusted. When in doubt about God’s will, follow the doctrines and teachings of your church.

3. Seek Advice from Other Christians

The doctrines of your church help apply the Bible to contemporary life, yet they may not yeild answers to specific questions such as my friend faced. He was on the right track when asked the advice of trusted Christian friends. Other people can be more objective about your life than you can. God has spoken his words to us through others for thousands of years. The counsel of Christian brothers and sisters is worth seeking.

4. Ask for a Confirming Sign

When Gideon wanted to confirm that he was hearing God’s voice accurately, he asked God to perform a confirming sign. Gideon first laid a wool fleece on the ground overnight and asked God to make the fleece wet with dew but the ground dry. When that happened, he asked God to do it again, this time making the ground wet but the fleece dry. Again, this improbable circumstance occurred.

Setting a “fleece” before God is essentially what my friend did when asking all nine quarter to land heads up, a 1 in 512 possibility. While not quite a miracle, such an unusual event occurring in response to a request from God could be taken as an indication of his answer.

A confirming sign assumes a direction and asks, “God, is this correct?” If the sign is positive, it confirms that this course of action is indeed God’s will.

5. Look for an Open or Closed Door

This method lets God speak through possibility. It is based on the experience of Paul and his companions, who were prevented by the Spirit from preaching in the province of Asia at a particular time. They found the “door,” or way, closed. When seeking God’s will, one method is to prayerfully proceed in the direction that you believe to be right. If you meet resistance, you might determine that God has closed the door. If the way is open, you might conclude that this is God’s will.

6. Accept the Will of the Church

Implicit in any form of church government is the belief that the Holy Spirit operates through the systems of the church. My own church uses voting by church members to make decisions about whom to call as pastor, whom to appoint as leaders within the church, and whether to undertake major projects. For certain questions, you might consider asking your church leaders to decide the issue, trusting that they together will seek God and hear his voice.

7. Use a Random Indicator

This was the method used by the apostles for replacing Judas as one of the Twelve. They narrowed the choice to two people using criteria that seemed reasonable to them, then they prayed and asked God to make the choice by means of a yes/no indicator similar to drawing straws. Priests used a comparable method for seeking God in the time before Christ.

A random indicator is used when two or more choices are seen as equal candidates for God’s will. The beauty of this method is that it takes human judgement completely out of the equation.

While some of these methods may sound extreme, all have been used by God’s people as a means of determining or confirming his will. The important thing is to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, keep in harmony with the Scripture and church teaching, and find some way of getting other input besides your own thoughts.

How do you seek God’s will for making decisions?

Lawrence W. Wilson

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I blog about Christian faith and ministry. I've also written a few books including The Long Road Home and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering.