1. In the course of ministry.
If you a Christian you are called to minister to others. It is in the course of ministering to others I believe the Lord is most likely to speak to Christians.
If that happens, instead of saying “God told me…,” say, for example, “I feel a family member did something terrible to you when you were young and you’ve never forgiven them,” or “Did a family member do something to you when you were young…”
If you’re wrong, you are none the worse for it. If you have heard the Lord, the person will be surprised and will ask you how you could know that. Then you can tell him the Lord told you, because then you will know you heard the Lord.
2. At work.
As a professional or an employee, people are paying you to do a job. It borders on misrepresentation to take a client’s money (or an employer’s) on the implied promise you will be performing your job based on your experience and training and then attempt to do so based on direction you think you get from the Lord.
Having said that, you should pray for God’s grace, favor, insight and guidance, and there will be times you have to make a judgment call, when there is no right decision in the natural. It’s at those times, when you might as well toss a coin, that you most need the guidance of the Lord, and it’s at those times that it’s perfectly ethical and right to seek and rely on it.
I had a trial once against a topless bar. One of the bar’s main witnesses was a manager, but I knew she had been a topless dancer in the past. I had a series of questions prepared to attack her credibility by taking her through her past of dancing naked in front of strangers.
When it came time for me to cross-examine her, I asked a few questions and then came to the point where I planned to discredit her with her past. It was a judgment call whether to continue. If I pushed too far, the jury could feel sorry for her and hold it against me, but then again it might be what was needed to fully discredit her. Any experienced trial attorney in the same situation could have rightly chosen to go or no-go. It was a coin toss. In that moment I prayed silently asking the Lord for guidance. As I did, I felt strongly that I should stop, and I did.
We ended up winning the trial, and afterward I spoke with the jury. I then learned that one of the jurors had a sister who was a topless dancer. Had I continued with my questioning of the bar’s witness, I probably would have alienated that juror and who knows how it might have affected the outcome.
Drop the “God told me …”; I know your attorney will appreciate it. GS