It's been said that prayer is the way we learn God's priorities and direction for our lives. So when we've been praying for guidance, how then are we to interpret our circumstances? Obviously the Bible records many accounts where circumstances looked bleak but were leading to a glorious conclusion (see Naomi or Joseph), or conversely where circumstances looked good but were actually snares (see the Gibeonite Deception).
In recent posts, we've had quite a conversation going about circumstances, faith, and obedience to God's Word. I wanted to explore the process of prayer first and then talk about circumstances, but I decided to flip-flop the order because of these conversations. When considering circumstances, it's common for Christians to speak of open or shut doors. When something (or someone) looks favorable and an opportunity presents itself, it's viewed as an open door. When something (or someone) is not cooperative (or even present!), it's viewed as a closed door. But this simplistic perspective is not always the wisest method. As Henry Blackaby writes in Hearing God's Voice, it's imperative to view open and shut doors against the plumb line of Scripture.
The problem with open doors is the emphasis is erroneously placed on the door rather than on God. Some people enter open doors under the mistaken assumption that God only allows good opportunities to come their way. Therefore, any good opportunity that comes along must be from God. Looking for open doors can appear easier than developing a relationship with God. Various opportunities, including questionable business opportunities and marriage proposals, can be treated as open doors. As you might imagine, this can often lead to disastrous results!
If decision-making were based entirely on open doors, people would not need a relationship with God; they could merely become "door watchers." Moses saw an open door to deliver a Hebrew being oppressed by an Egyptian. He went through it, and it cost him forty years wandering in the wilderness (Exod. 2:11-15). King Saul seized an opportunity to offer an unauthorized sacrifice to God, and it cost him his kingdom (1 Sam. 13:8-9). King David stumbled through an open door to an improper relationship with Bathsheba, and his house was filled with violence and heartache for the rest of his life (2 Sam. 11). Conversely, David twice had the opportunity to murder King Saul. Doing so would have removed his greatest enemy and opened the door for his rightful place as king. Yet both times David wisely recognized the opportunity before him was not from God (1 Sam. 24, 26). Simply entering an open door without checking to see if God opened it can bring catastrophic consequences.
Therefore, if we as single Christian women are asked out by an unbelieving man, we know that this open door is not from God because God's word commands that believers be equally yoked and more importantly that women who have the freedom to make their own choices in marriage marry only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). Yes, we desire to get married. Yes, this is a man asking us out. But this door cannot be viewed as an answer to prayer, because prayer is the means of aligning ourselves with God's will.
More on that next time. I hope you were encouraged by Henry Blackaby's clarification.