Watch for enticements that pull away from God’s Word and lure us with the more “exotic.” I’m speaking of the current emphasis on trying to initiate special revelations and visitations from the Lord. Consider these true scenarios (my thoughts in brackets). The little kids’ Sunday school lesson says, “Ask God to tell you who you should forgive.” [Uh . . . hasn’t God already told us to forgive everyone? What if little Emily asks for this special direction and “bad Cory” doesn’t come to mind? Is Emily free to keep holding a grudge?] From teen curriculum: “Ask God to show you what you might give to help others.” [Or you could just look around and use the good sense he gave you, recalling Scriptures about generosity.] And what about: “Ask Jesus to show you what bad habits to give up.” [Is 15-year-old Josiah mature/pure/objective enough to “hear Jesus” naming habits that human nature surely doesn’t want to relinquish?]
Please don’t misunderstand. Of course the Lord is perfectly capable of speaking directly to anyone he wants to. My concern is from the human side of it. With our culture’s increasing acceptance and use of occult methods for getting “cosmic” knowledge (even among Christians), we need to be on alert for seductions, appetizers.
Another prong of the problem is in suggesting this “ask God to tell you” approach to those who don’t have a strong Scripture filter. For people to be able to distinguish God’s voice from their own subjective thoughts/wishes/imagination—(“Forgive Jared but never mind about Cory. God speaking.” / “OK, who is this REALLY?”)—there would need to be some level of discernment based on knowledge of what God has already revealed in Scripture.
When we read the Lord’s Prayer, the psalms, Paul’s directives on prayer . . . we don’t find prayers like those above. We don’t find that the Lord typically feeds us specific, direct, new knowledge on demand. “James 1:5 instructs us to pray for wisdom. This is not a prayer for new knowledge, but for discernment in how to use and apply what is already known.” (Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, p 289) When we don’t “already know” much, that’s a clue to get into the living Word and listen to what the Lord is saying there. Let’s steer the children to do the same.