Should I Use "Fleece Prayers" To Discern God's Will?

Here are a few reasons you shouldn't.

Should I Use "Fleece Prayers" To Discern God's Will?
Photo by Ruben Hutabarat / Unsplash

Have you ever tried to discern God's will by laying out a "fleece prayer"?

The origination of “fleece prayers” started in Judges 6 when Gideon asked God for a sign of whether to attack the Midianites.

Keeping with their rebellious nature, the first verses of chapters 4 and 6 give us two parallel narratives. In 4:1-2, 1 “The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud had died.” So the Lord sold them to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth of the Nations.” In Chapter 4, God raises up a prophetess and judge named Deborah, and she, along with Barak and Jael, leads Israel to victory over the Canaanites.

Several decades later, in 6:1-2, The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to Midian seven years, and they oppressed Israel.” This time, God raises up a man named Gideon to liberate Israel. In 6:36, 36 “Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you will deliver Israel by me, as you said, 37 I will put a wool fleece here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that you will deliver Israel by me, as you said.’”

God answers Gideon’s request and delivers a massive victory for Israel, using only 300 men against an army so large they were like “a great swarm of locusts.”[1] But was Gideon right to pray this way, and should we model our prayers after him? Daniel Block answers this way: “Contrary to popular interpretation,” he says, “this text has nothing to do with discovering or determining the will of God. The divine will is perfectly clear in his mind (v. 16). Gideon’s problem is that with his limited experience with God he cannot believe that God always fulfills his word. The request for signs is not a sign of faith but of unbelief.”[2]

Despite hearing God say in 6:16, “I will be with you…You will strike Midian down as if it were one man,” Gideon still doubts. And when addressing God, he doesn’t use his covenant name, “Yahweh.” Instead, he uses “Elohim,” the generic term for God. Thus, God’s response to Gideon says less about Gideon’s persistence and more about God’s eagerness to bring deliverance to his people.

Before we come down too hard on Gideon, though, we might do well to question our own trust in God. How well do we know him, and how quick are we to do what he says? While there are some situations where we must certainly discern God’s will, there are many that are clear. And if we were to be honest with ourselves, our primary struggle is not clarity, but trust.

So before laying out a fleece, take inventory of all God has said to you in the past. Chances are, if you trust what he’s already said, a fleece won’t even be necessary.

Dallas Willard wrote, “The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon and think about.”[3] And one of the primary problems for many Christians is they overthink the process of becoming like Christ. They strive for 100% clarity when God wants to build their faith.

God wants to take us deeper. He wants to get us to the place where our knee-jerk response is to do what he says. When Scripture confronts us with ways we should change how we talk to others, treat our spouse, or go to work, we instantly obey because we trust in Yahweh, our covenantal God.

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