“Is this prayer?” is a question frequenting my thoughts lately. Moses’ powerful public prayer was birthed in intimate face-to-face encounters with God. His life demonstrates the qualities and benefits of this deep relationship. Though I enjoy a personal relationship with God, He has been challenging many of my paradigms of prayer.
Moses, unlike any other person, experienced God in unprecedented ways. He heard God’s audible voice. He received detailed instructions on how to bring unity to a nation not yet nation, as well as how to build and organize a worship center for over a million people. His dependence upon God was evident,
“Then Moses said to Him,
‘If Your Presence does not go with us,
then do not send us up from here.'”
Perhaps, nothing forces us into the Presence of God quite like difficult circumstances. Moses faced more than his fair share of struggle. A posse of grumblers confronted him and his leadership. Dathan, Abiram and On were their self-appointed leaders. They boldly aired their grievances unaware of their own pride and disrespect!
“(They) became insolent
and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members
of the council.”
Such descension came not from a renegade group of has-beens or back-benchers, but from “well-known community leaders.” These men were “appointed members” of council!
Envision the scene for a moment. Two hundred and fifty strong, angry, powerful recognized leaders shouting their demands!
“They came as a group to oppose
Moses and Aaron and said to them,
‘The whole community is holy,
every one of them, and the Lord is with them.
Why then do you set yourselves
above the Lord’s assembly?'”
What would you do? What would I do? Would the first instinct be to fight, flight or fall? Moses prayed. Although the word “prayer” might not fit our preconceived notion of what prayer looks like.
“When Moses heard this
he fell face down.”
Have you been in a situation so volatile, uncertain, and beyond reason that words won’t come? Any utterance falls insignificantly short. After prostrated silence, Moses would speak, but not now. Now was the time of waiting on the Most High, being still in His Presence, and listening for His voice. Hearing always precedes speaking for the wise of heart.
Is silence prayer? Can prayer be wordless and still be prayer?
The conversation Moses had with God was raw, audacious and vulnerable.
“Then Moses became very angry
and said to the LORD,
‘Do not accept their offering.
I have not taken so much as a donkey from them,
nor have I wronged any of them.'”
The sting of injustice and angry retaliation oozed through Moses honest interchange with God. Is that Allowed? Is emotional venting prayer?
She sat across from me confused, disappointed and unable to understand the situation that seemed to threaten her. Raised in a Christian home, she had attempted to honour God at every stage of her life. Purity was high on her expectation list both for herself and her spouse.
Past sins and secrets were recently disclosed by the man she loved. She fully submitted her marriage to God. Yet the sense of betrayal remained — not only by her husband but by God.
She was stuck in the dilemma of nicety. “How do you tell God your angry?” Such transparency seemed risky.
Slowly, she began to articulate her grief, pain and the depth of loss she felt. Gradually words started to break from the inner dam of disbelief and mistrust.
Afterward, she sensed God acknowledge and even thank her for her authenticity and courage to admit and honestly voice the pain of her heart. Perplexed she wondered why God welcomed the exchange. Slowly she began to realize God’s love covered her unconditionally. He desired genuine relationship with her.
Many people might ask, “Is this prayer?”
Standing in the Gap
Perhaps, Moses’ next exchange with God pictures more clearly our perception of prayer.
“But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out,
‘O God, the God who gives breath
to all living things,
will you be angry with the entire assembly
when only one man sins?'”
This is intercession at its finest. God stands ready to vindicate Moses and Aaron once and for all. Instead of saying, “Yeah! It’s about time! Do it God!” They stand in the gap by falling on their faces. Instead of applauding God’s justice, they plead for His mercy.
Only a few verses before, Moses laid silently face down in the dust. Again, He falls to the ground. This time with deep wails that would not be silenced.
“What difference does the prayer of one person make?
You will never know until you pray.”
– Anne Graham Lotz
Which one is prayer?
Can action be prayer?
The grumbling in the camp rose in unceasing waves. No sooner had God dealt with one group of complainers and mutants, than another pushed their way to the forefront.
God’s patience ran low! His love would not restrain correction any longer. When Moses and Aaron saw the sudden appearance of “the cloud” covering the tent of meeting and “the glory of the LORD,” they knew time was running out.
“‘Get away from this assembly
so I can put an end to them at once.’
And they fell facedown.”
Falling facedown in prayer almost seems synonymous for Moses. But this time, face to the ground prayer led to a completely different response. Quickly, via Moses’ instruction, Aaron “ran into the midst of the assembly” with a censer and burning incense.
“He stood between the living and the dead,
and the plague stopped.”
Is running and standing prayer?
It may feel outside our traditional prayer paradigm when God spurs us to obedient action. The results will speak for themselves.
More than one prayer warrior I have talked to has sensed God instruct them to stomp their feet or aggressively dance in warlike fashion as a declaration of freedom and breakthrough for others. Each of them testified to a distinct shift that enabled a restoration of relationship with a prodigal son or daughter. Their prayer acts somehow created a “gap” between the dead destructive choices while opening “paths” for the life of Christ to flow.
The bound were set free,
the lost found their way home,
the plague of sin and shame broke.
Obedient actions when directed by God carry the sweet incense, the aroma of prayer, to the throne room of heaven.
Is this prayer?
Is This Prayer?
Yes, beyond a doubt, as Moses demonstrated, it is prayer. Prayer at its deepest level — sometimes silent, often raw, gap creating, active involvement initiating prayer. Prayer beyond words.
This is the prayer that releases God’s authority and His mercy. Prayer that enables true and ever-deepening authentic relationship between God and man, Father and child, Redeemer and redeemed.
It is the kind of prayer that refuses to abandon, pleads for mercy and seeks another way. Prayer reaching to the perishing. Prayer staying the hand of justice and soliciting mercy. Life being ministered to the lost and broken through the partnering of God and man.