“See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me you ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
Many times when I’m not sure how to pray, I’ll take a look at specific prayers of people in the Bible. I figure that’s always a solid place to start. One of the prayers that God leads me back to over and over again is a prayer by Moses in Exodus 33.
God has given Moses a mandate to lead the people of Israel into the promised land, which was no small task. They were a ragtag group of former slaves with no real military experience who were on their way to take over the land of Canaan (a.k.a. the promised land). They also had a penchant for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Exhibit A would be building a golden calf to worship and engaging in all kinds of immorality as Moses is up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. I imagine they were breaking each commandment just as God was writing them with his finger on the stone tablets. It is just after the golden calf incident that Moses prayers this desperate prayer in Exodus 33:12-13:
Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me you ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
It’s pretty obvious from this prayer that Moses knows he is in over his head. In fact, if you read through the Old Testament book of Exodus you’ll see that as Moses seeks to follow God and responds to what God is doing, he is constantly finding himself in over his head. God keeps bringing this guy back to a place of desperation and dependence. I believe if we take a step back and look at the narrative of scripture, or at people throughout history that God has used in significant ways, or even at our own lives, we’ll see this pattern: God keeps bringing those who desire to be used by Him back to a place of desperation and dependence.
Although this is far from exhaustive, here are a few of my opinions on “WHY?”
1)Most of the time we’re in over our heads and we just don’t know it. Unless God puts us in situations that are obviously too big for us, we can quickly think we have it all together with our jobs, school, friendships, ministries, and marriages. Think about it: when was the last time you desperately prayed for God to move in a significant way at your work place, through your friendships, in your marriage, in your church, or simply to use you to make a major impact in the world around you? Just to be clear- the idea that we have everything under control and that we have it all together is just an illusion anyway.
2)When God does significant things in and through our lives, we can unwittingly move towards arrogance and a sense of entitlement. If we are not careful we can develop a mindset that we deserve God moving in our lives and somehow He owes it to us. The journey of faith can quickly become more about God responding to us, our dreams, and our desires rather than us responding to His will and His activity. We reduce God’s role in our lives to nothing more than a Genie in a bottle who is waiting to fulfill our wishes. Is that really the kind of God we want to know, worship, and follow? I certainly hope God and His plans are bigger and better than the bottle I try to confine Him to.
3)If we cease to be desperate for and dependent on God, we miss experiencing the one thing in the universe that is most valuable and satisfying. Nothing compares to knowing God and experiencing Him working in and through our lives- NOTHING!
I believe Pastor John Piper has made this point much better than I ever could hope to. These quotes from him have challenged me to the point of tears:
“Woe to us if we get our satisfaction from the food in the kitchen and the TV in the den and the sex in the bedroom with an occasional tribute to the cement blocks in the basement! God wills to be displayed and known and loved and cherished and worshiped.”
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? ”
As Christin, Jude, and I move towards Burlington, it’s easy for me to realize God is placing us once again “in over our heads.” I know I don’t have what it takes ad that I desperately need Him. May God give me that same sense of desperation and dependence on Him in my marriage and family, with my temporary part-time gig at the Census Bureau, in my ministry here in New Brunswick, and with the opportunities that are all around me every day to impact the world for Him.
May God bring us all back to a place of desperation and dependence.
THIS WEEK please pray for us as we travel to the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida. This is the largest church planting conference in the nation. Please pray God will use this week to better strengthen and equip us for the journey ahead.