In the story of Abraham sending for a wife to marry his son Issac, a significant thing happened which gives us one example of how to pray when we truly desire to know the Lord's will. I personally don't think this kind of prayer is meant for everyday stuff. I think it is significant to making special decisions in life. The life altering ones. As in this case, when Abraham's servant was afraid to fail on his mission, and desired God to give him help and assurance that he was doing the right thing.
In Genesis 24, Abraham sent his most reveared servant on a trip to chose a bride for his son Isaac. Abraham had no qualms whatsoever in doing this, and I thought that was interesting. It indicates 2 things for certain. One, Abraham already knew God's will about where he should live, what family his wife's son should come from, and where his son should live. These were things that he had established from God at some previous time. But, secondly, it indicates that Abraham had enough faith in God that he wasn't afraid to send a servant to bring back this very important person. He believed God's hand was already involved and working things out. In fact, he said so. In his instructions to the servant, he gave strict directions according to what he knew God had already told him. And he said:
"...he (God) shall send his angel before you..." Genesis 24:7b
It seems in the story that this servant was just learning about Abraham's God. I thought that was interesting, too, especially that Abraham placed his faith in this servant, knowing this man was still learning to trust God. Verse 12 of this passage says soooo much in so few words.
And he (the servant) said, O Lord God, of my master Abraham, I pray thee send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Genesis 24:12
A couple of other translations that I checked, used success instead of the words good speed. That he was praying for success is an absolute and makes the verse very pertinent to our lives, for a number of reasons. But I do like the term "good speed" because later in the story, it becomes very important to the servant to return to Abraham with Isaac's wife with "good speed." So they ask Rebekah whether she will stay 10 days at home to say her goodbyes, or will she go immediately to marry Isaac. Rebekah chooses to go immediately, once again affirming to the servant that she was the correct choice.
So in the servant's prayer he had several things in mind that he was asking of God.
1. In a way, he was asking God to prove he was God. He said - "Lord God of my master Abraham." He was placing faith in Abraham's God, but he was sort of relying on Abraham's say so that this God had already put things in place. Sounds like a prayer of someone who had not previously placed faith in God when he prayed, expecting an answer from someone he could not see. Although, tentative, that is powerful faith. It is the kind that Jesus would have recognized. The servant was acting on Abraham's testimony, and deciding to believe for himself. But he was putting this God to the test.
2. Here's another scenario. Maybe this servant had prayed before, and knew God well, but he didn't feel worthy to claim God as his own God. Abraham was a man of importance, and God did things for him. Was there a bit of reluctance to believe that God would do something for a mere servant? He did however, pray and with faith. And he lived up to Abraham's expectaitons of him. Perhaps Abraham knew this dear servant needed assurance that God was willing to be involved even in the life of a common man. Abraham knew that if God was in control, and this man was willing to trust that God was leading Abraham, then the servant would see for himself exactly how God could reveal himself to absolutely anyone who would trust him. The servant was asking God to send angels ahead of him, just as Abraham had said God would.
3. This servant was choosing to agree with Abraham in his prayer for a proper wife for his son. This is an early mention of the principle of when two agree in prayer, there is a power unleashed upon the circumstances. If I have faith to ask God for his guidance and intervention all day, and no one else knows, there is no signigicant blessing to the testimony of a living God except to me. My faith doesn't yeild growth in helping someone else's faith unless I involve them. Then not only I see God working, but someone else sees God working, and thier faith is increased as well. This also speaks to the principle of not forsaking assembling yourselved together. Coming together to share what God is doing in our lives, changes lives. I have personally seen the benefits of this kind of witness to both new Christians, but also to some who were seeking to know if God was real. He is a God who will prove himself.
4. He was asking for success. Are we sometimes too timid to ask for success. I watch the postings on facebook and notice that lots of times, people tend to choose the sentimental sayings that encourage you when you are going through tough times, and they stop there. I have always wondered why so many Christians stop there. Including myself. We are OK with God just giving only enough help to sooth our emotions and help us tough it through. How much more optomistic is the outlook, that we pray instead that God's kindness would include our success. I believe this is another thing that the servant learned from Abraham. Abraham was extremely successful. He was wealthy. He was accepted in a foreign land. He was owner of many servants. He was like an owner of a successful business. His products had done quite well. And he was not afraid to give God credit. Someone who served Abraham closely saw him ask God for success.
5. This servant wanted to please his "employer". We are told in the story that even though he laid out a scenario before God, and said, "if you will make things happen like this, then I will know what choice to make." He asked God to show kindness to his master. This principle is part of the "Give and it shall be given to you principle." Asking the blessings for his master and not himself was a giving thing. He did ask for success for his mission. But he also saw the value in realizing he was not there for his own benefit, but for his employer's benefit. I am using the word employer to make a point, because we don't know the payment status of this servant. We are given no indication that this servant would benefit in any way from doing this thing right. Yet we have a story that has made this man a hero for several thousand years. He understood that his job was about doing what his employer needed done. No qualms about it.
6. This servant prayed that God would allow a certain set of circumstances to occur. By this he would have a clue to God's leading. Some people in Jesus's day were depending on signs to know he was the Messiah. He offered up signs and miracles by virtue of just being God's messenger. God's desire is to demonstrate his power in our lives all the time. Yet we are timid to ask for evidence that he is there. However, this story makes it entirely clear that God not only wants us to know he is involved, but that he has sent angels ahead of us to prepare the way. I would say that is very involved. So all this servant was doing, was not asking for a sign, but for a clue, so that he could see the evidence of the angels at work, and know how to do the Lord's will. He asked for significant and appropriate guidance. He was saying, God, if this happens, then I will know what to do next. When we are faced with the unknown, we may have assurance that the angels aren't unaware of where the Lord is leading us, so asking for a clue for God's direction to go in the way that is already prepared, is not an unreasonable prayer.
I want to close by giving a single example of how this worked in my life in a time when I knew the Lord was leading me to make a significant change in direction in my job. I had some trepidation about choosing a new job, so I asked the Lord to let me know it was the right job by allowing the correct interviewer to mention my high school in some way. I knew most potential employers didn't make note of where you went to high school, but they sometimes asked about your education. I had several reasons for wanting them to bring it up, but I also wanted to allow God to use this key to give me a direct clue. Curiously, the manager was the person my interview was set up with, from the start. No pre-interviews...straight to the manager. Then to my amazement, after a bit of small talk, he asked me point blank about my high school, by name. I am not sure he knew that he was acting by God's lead, or that angels had prepared my way, but I knew two things. One, he was my new employer, even long before he actually hired me. And two, he was willing to let God lead him too. For you see, he had to be willing to do what he was being led to do to even meet my expectations from God. I knew, immediately, he was a Christian. As it turned out, he was from my home town, and new exactly where my high school was. I didn't need a sign, I needed a clue. An indication that I was on God's track. It's OK to ask for clues along the way.
My last comment would be that Rebekah, whom I have focused on the most when I previously studied this story, was also prepared to make a life altering change, so much so that she was willing to leave immediately when she heard how God was involved. How exciting to have been in anticipation of God's movement upon her life so much that she followed without hesitation. The key to the servant knowing she was the right person is the word "kindness." The servant asked that God would show kindness to his master Abraham. Who better to fulfil that request than one who could show so much kindness. Isn't it interesting that God placed this word into the servant's heart, knowing the character of sweet Rebekah. Isn't God Good?
Lord, I don't always ask for clues along the way, but thank you, that when I need them, you are willing to give them. You desire so much that I know that anyone in any station can ask for you to be involved in our success. You don't choose one person over another to bless. But help someone to know that you are not only involved but you are not waiting on us to pray in desparation to act in our lives. Instead, you send angels ahead of us to prepare our way, and if you do that, you want us to know what it is. Let us get a handle on this truth and use it. Let me be in tune with you that I might know the clues. Or know how to ask for them. Make this a genuine element of my faith. AMEN