Read Deuteronomy 9:13-21
I [Moses] feared the anger and the wrath of the Lord,
for he was angry enough with you to destroy you.
But again the Lord listened to me.
I have been studying prayer for 40 years. I have led classes on how to pray on several occasions over that time; and I pray earnestly and expectantly (some of the time), and have for many, many years, but there is still much that I do not understand.
I attended a senior high camp four years ago as one of the camp counselors – one of the older counselors. One part of the daily learning and study time with my “family” group was a prayer walk. I remember specifically one of the lessons that was about Jesus’ prayers. I began that time with questions, “Why would Jesus need to pray?” “Why does God need to pray to God?” Yet, scripture recounts many times that Jesus prayed. Indeed, in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed, and drops of blood dripped from his forehead. I came away from that study time with a willingness to pray because of the example that Jesus provided. Jesus prayed because he cared, and he prayed because he was able to do so, and he prayed as if it would make a difference, and he prayed for understanding and obedience. I need to do the same, even though I do not understand.
The scripture for today recounts the story of the Israelites fashioning a golden calf to worship, while Moses had been on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God. God sees this, and is incredibly angry and is ready to destroy those “stiff-necked” people. God sends Moses down from the mountain, and when Moses sees what is happening, he throws down the two stone tablets, breaking them into many pieces. Moses then prostrates himself before God, and for 40 days he prays and fasts for the Israelites. God relents. God relents and chooses not to destroy the people.
I come from this story wondering first how many times God has been similarly angry with me. I also come with the strange realization that perhaps my prayers can change God’s mind. I
believe that God can do anything, but maybe God chooses to act in some cases only when we pray. Prayer can certainly change me, but maybe God changes in response to my prayers. If so, my prayers must not be superficial or half-hearted, but earnest and expectant — all of my prayers. God will not answer all of my prayers in the way or in the time I might want, but still I must pray.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift and privilege of prayer. May I always come to you with the desires of my heart. Amen.