Excluding the book of Psalms which is a prayer-book in itself, the bible records no less than 650 prayers, of which 450 have recorded answers.
Prayer is as varied as the people that pray. And since there are all kinds of people, there are all kinds of prayer!
One of the more interesting prayer requests recorded in the Bible is the prayer for a "sign", or signs. By definition a sign is: "a mark, indication, token of Divine authenticity, authority and power."
There are abundant references and inferences to signs in scriptures. In fact, the word (signs-plural) appears 136 times, and the word (sign-singular) appears 178 times; for a total of 314.
The frequency with which Divine signs appear in scripture suggests God is not shy about displaying His Divinity. It seems that God wants His creation to notice Him!
Example of signs that reveal the nature, mind, and will of God:
1. Genesis 1:14
2. Exodus 8:23
3. Exodus 13:9
Example of signs that reveal divine authenticity and/or the conferring of Divine Authority are:
1. Exodus 4:17
2. Mark 16:17
3. John 20:30
4. Acts 2:22
5. 2Cor 12:12
So numerous are God's references to and use of signs and wonders that signs and wonders are His signature and calling card. Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
We identify the activity of God by "signs" of His presence; much like rustling leaves and bending trees are a "sign" of wind which we cannot see.
God is so identified with signs and wonders that Satan tries to imitate and compete with his own counterfeit sings and wonders: 2Thess 2:9
Never the less, despite the numerous mention of and display of signs in scripture; the Bible is almost silent when it comes to individuals requesting a sign.
There are several occurrences in scripture where a sign from God is requested. They are:
1. Judges 6:17-23, 36-40 (Gideon)
2. Isaiah 38:1-7, 22 (Hezekiah)
3. Gospels: Mt 12:38-39; 16:1,4; 24:3 (Pharisees)
4. Luke 1:18-19 (Zechariah father of John the Baptizer)
5. John 20:27-29 (Doubting Thomas)
Gideon is the best examples in scripture of praying for a sign. Take a minute to read the scriptures relating to Gideon and Hezekiah.
See if you can recognize exactly what each man wanted by seeking a sign from God. Hint: It starts with a "C".
Be careful when requesting a sign:
As we can see from the accounts of Hezekiah and Gideon it is legal to ask God for a sign. However, the fact that there are so few examples in scripture of individuals praying for a sign; lets us know that this is not God's preferred method of dealing with His children.
Reason: There's a thin line between confirmation and doubt.
1. John 20:19 - 36 Doubting Thomas
Signs and Wonders are God's calling card. He gives us a super abundance of them so that we might use our God given intelligence and ability to believe.
Jesus is God's most spectacular sign and wonder. Everything about Him, everything He said and did, is a sign and wonder. It is striking that in John 5:20, 36 Jesus labels His signs and wonders as "works".
And Jesus' enemies understood the meaning of his works. But they refused to believe the evidence of their eyes because the signs and wonders were not what they were expecting.
Lesson: God's provision (signs) will be much greater and much more subtle (super-natural)than we can imagine.
"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe."
All right then, here's the wind up!
1. Signs are God's calling card and signature. As such they are all around us in nature and in our lives. We can observe them any time we will (Romans 1: 19-20).
2. God does permit individuals to request a fleece (sign).
3. But the evidence of scripture teaches that God much more prefers His children to walk in faith with the signs He has already provided. Why? So that we grow in faith.
Because signs are for them that do not believe.
DON'T WAIT TILL THE BATTLE IS OVER.