This morning we began our new teaching series on prayer, reflecting on the astonishing story of Moses’ prayer to God in the aftermath of Israel’s building of the Golden Calf, a betrayal which brings God perilously close to getting rid of Israel, and starting again with a new people. Hopefully the talk will appear soon on YWBC’s audio page.
Reading Exodus 32 again over the past week, I’ve been struck again by how significant Moses’ prayers were. Filled with hurt and anger, God tells Moses to ‘let me alone,’ so he can come to terms with Israel’s idolatry and proceed with plans to get rid of them, starting afresh with a new people borne of Moses. But Moses doesn’t give God the space he’s looking for. Instead, he encourages God to think of his reputation (what would the Egyptians think if God brought the Israelites out of slavery only to annihilate them in the future?) and also the promises made to forefathers such as Abraham and Isaac.
This isn’t the only biblical story where God’s mind appears to be changed by human pleading. In Genesis 18 Abraham negotiates with God and persuades him not to destroy Sodom, and in 2 Kings 20 we read of Hezekiah’s life being prolonged for another 15 years because of his prayers.
The question is, how do we live differently in the light of such passages? In his excellent book, God of the Possible, Greg Boyd suggests: ‘Many Christians do not pray as passionately as they could because they don’t see how it could make any significant difference. They pray, but they often do so out of sheer obedience and without the sense of urgency that Scripture consistently attaches to prayer.’
Sometimes it feels as if we’re passively sitting, waiting, wondering when the renewal we all hope for is going to begin. But as James writes, ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ (James 4:2). Shaping the future of our church begins with prayer, not presuming upon God’s blessing, but starting to show God how dissatisfied and demanding we are.
It would be good to hear the thoughts of others of others on this issue, and good to hear of anything you sense God saying as you pray.