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Teach us how to pray - the courageous, the praisers and the doubters. Moses, David, Gideon. Part 2/4

Updated: Mar 3


"And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people."

(Ex 32:7 ff, author's emphasis)


"The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold.

32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.

34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.

(Ex 32:31 ff, author's emphasis)


Prayer in distress

1 A Prayer of David. Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.

7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.

8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.

17 Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

(Psalm 86, emphasis by author)


"Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.

12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 And the Lord[1] turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”

15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me." ( Judges 6:11 ff, author's emphasis)

My dear friends, dear women of God,

three prayers. Three biblical heroes. As different as day and night.

I think we are automatically drawn to the one who is closest in character to ourselves.

I believe that the Bible is a veritable treasure trove for those who don't know how to pray, who are afraid of praying wrongly, who are evasive, or who think they don't have the right to plead, to petition, or even to say clearly that a situation is really bad, but that God is nevertheless more faithful-and to remind Him of what He has said, promised, proclaimed. May we come before God doubting, or does that disqualify our prayer? May we throw ourselves before others whom we know have sinned, putting ourselves at their disposal as a father does, as a mother protects her child? May we ask God to confirm His speaking, His vision, or will a lightning strike then wipe out our unbelief? May we ask God to comfort us, and defend us when the hordes break in upon us?

Yes, yes, and yes- we may very well do all that.

We may, and we will pray differently. But what all three prayers do is engage in dialogue. Neither do they proclaim, nor declare, nor claim. All three of them we can confidently consider as God's plenipotentiaries, those whom God considered worthy to have friendship, allegiance with Him because of their heart, and to whom He gave the Holy Spirit already in the Old Testament about election.

We today, we no longer live in the Old Covenant, which gave access to God only to individual, chosen leaders. In Acts 2, Peter says that Joel's prophecy was fulfilled that day in the sight of all:

"But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.
15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[2]
16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. (Acts 2:14ff)

For us, this means that what Moses had, David, Daniel, Gideon- the direct "flat rate to God"- is given to us through Jesus, and it is up to us to use it- in ways that we have been taught for a long time.

Moses prays in a way that I find fascinating.

We know that when he was called to deliver the people of Israel, he was anything but willing and confident. It took him a lot of events, a lot of faith experience, to become an intercessor and outright bargainer for God's favor-and to realize that he was actually pleading before God as a righteous man-that his statement, "Take me and punish me instead of them," would not be answered by God with, "All right, have it your way! "

He confronts God with the promises he made earlier, and he does something that is echoed in the Lord's Prayer to this day: He appeals to God's honor. He does not quibble about sin, he does not excuse the Israelites, but he is much more cunning:

He stands up for the people God was so angry with that he no longer called them his people, but Moses' people ("Your child has..."), giving all glory to God, virtually cajoling him. "Hey, God, it's your honor that's in question here, what do you want people to say? He brought them out of Egypt and now they've died? What a ridiculous God!!! "Remember your promises and faithfulness, regardless of their sin and unfaithfulness! Your name shall be great!"

- And God relents.-

And when Moses puts himself up for disposition, his life against that of an entire people, God rejects that sacrifice. He promises to go before the people, and he adds, " But I will visit their sin when my time to visit has come."

When did that time come when HIS TIME had come? When did he put an end to this sin? Each of us should know this answer. For now, He sent a plague and left it at that.

David prayed completely differently. David loved God, he had a praising, tender heart.

When you hear David pray, your heart swells: At least I feel that way. He praises God for His goodness, His love, His everlasting grace. He dances naked in the street for God- oblivious, totally wrapped up in his joy over him. He casts his heart, his fear, his doubts before him, and he cannot bear the thought of being banished from his presence. He does not want to test him or examine him, he wants to love him. David is distressed when he does not see God, David is blessed when he is in His presence- and he is a praying man in spirit, someone who is always pondering Him. You might say...a little contemplative perhaps. David is fascinated by God, completely infatuated with Him, and he makes Him his protection, comfort, refuge. Powerful as David was, he was nevertheless someone whose heart was almost childlike when he ran to God. He trusted God. He expected his goodness. And when someone blasphemes the name of God- David becomes angry, wrathful, sad. He doesn't understand how a whole nation can stand by and watch God be mocked, he stands up for Him, and his heart sings for Him. Completely different from Moses, and yet: he too gives God all the glory, has his benevolence, love and guidance, so much so that he assumes as a matter of course that God will show him the right way:

If this happens, then yes; if that happens, then no. God granted him this guidance, and to David it seemed perfectly natural. He was quick to praise, and he was quick on his knees.

A lover of God- with the heart of a child.

And then there is Gideon. The insecure, fearful youngest son who needs confirmation by the short and curlies.

Gideon doesn't believe anything at first, because he can't believe that God chooses him. His reaction to this is almost enervating: "Is it you, God? Is it really you? Now, really: Is it you? This must be a mistake, I'm just imagining it!" He asks for sign after sign to make sure, and even after he finally believes it, the first thing that comes to his mind is to raise a huge army as backup, God shrinking it down to a pathetic bunch of losers to lead him to victory anyway. The message to Gideon was clear: "I'm using you, who are no one, to glorify me, and all the power it takes to do so is provided by me, not you."

But was God angry at Gideon's doubts? Did he lord it over him, condemn him, take his destiny from him as he demanded confirmation after confirmation? No. He gave it to him because he needed it, and because God had made his decision to use him. Gideon....he prayed with doubts, fears, self-rejection, and a need for security. With a small self-image, and God showed him what He could accomplish through him if Gideon would only follow His instructions.

What characterized all the prayers, it was an almost unabashed intimacy with God. It was an approaching Him with the knowledge that He is real. They were not deterred by the fact that God is not visible-perhaps a little like we don't really understand why we dial a number and hear the other person talking on the other end even though we don't see them.

How do we know we're not misconnected?

Well, we recognize the voice, and what our counterpart is saying is familiar. It is congruent, that is, consistent with what we know of him, how he acts, what he stands for, and it is clear, leaves no doubt as to who was speaking. And: it has visible consequences, it points ways, directly in our lives, is fitting and serves his call.

"Hallowed be your name".

What this sentence really says is: "Make your name great, God! Show forth your glory! "

What's all in the Lord's Prayer, and why the prayer Jesus taught us to pray is all-encompassing and not at all outdated, is what we'll be talking about next week in Part 3.

Praying is your way to God. It is an undue honor, a gift beyond compare, and life-changing. So if you don't pray much, if you prefer to proclaim rather than ask- then begin to dialogue. Call again- your Father rejoices and longs for you.

Be blessed,

Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.

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