How could I not pray?

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Joshua is my favourite leader in the Bible and I am encouraged by him even through his failures to pray. Those failures cost plenty too and it was not because God was not with him. The story starts here.

Joshua sent some men from Jericho to Ai, a city east of Bethel, near Bethaven, with orders to go and explore the land. When they had done so, they reported back to Joshua: “There is no need for everyone to attack Ai. Send only about two or three thousand men. Don’t send the whole army up there to fight; it is not a large city.” – Joshua 7:2-3  GNT

They had deceived themselves in two ways. One, that the Lord was somehow no longer the commander of the army and that they could do this on  their own. Secondly, they failed to realize that they needed God to walk ahead of them and without inviting Him they could not hear Him say that there was sin in the camp that needed addressing.

This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They retreat from them because they themselves have now been condemned to destruction! I will not stay with you any longer unless you destroy the things you were ordered not to take! Get up! Purify the people and get them ready to come before me. Tell them to be ready tomorrow, because I, the Lord God of Israel, have this to say: ‘Israel, you have in your possession some things that I ordered you to destroy! You cannot stand against your enemies until you get rid of these things!’ – Joshua 7:12-13  GNT

This is where I do not see him praying. He was looking rationally at the plans given to him by capable leaders – his mind was making sense of it all and he thought he could handle it.

The scenario could go the other way too and be a failure – I am sure what happened at the river Jordan was on his mind. He did not want to reject the proposal to move forward and then fail as the people of Israel had done in the past. Either way, the right response was to take the issue to the Lord in prayer to see what He had to say.

Both scenarios fall under a very subtle transfer – a shifting of trust – from the Lord and His promises to his own capabilities.  My takeaway is that when I am evaluating my plans without prayer I have already succumbed to relying on my own human wisdom.

The right thing for Joshua would have been to seek God in prayer. God would have given him, as He did anyway, the insight required to win the battle.

As in so many cases, failure has this way of bringing us back to prayer. Even though Joshua’s prayer was way off when He questions God, it was still prayer. I love how God tells him to “Get up!” It was here in listening to God that Joshua learned of the disobedience and it was here in prayer that he knew what was required of him to do next.

Here I come into a place of thanksgiving. Where I can pray and thank God.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I sing praise to you before the gods.
I face your holy Temple,
    bow down, and praise your name
because of your constant love and faithfulness,
    because you have shown that your name and your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to you;
    with your strength you strengthened me.

All the kings in the world will praise you, Lord,
    because they have heard your promises.
They will sing about what you have done
    and about your great glory.
Even though you are so high above,
    you care for the lowly,
    and the proud cannot hide from you. When I am surrounded by troubles, you keep me safe.

You oppose my angry enemies
and save me by your power.
You will do everything you have promised;
Lord, your love is eternal.
Complete the work that you have begun. – Psalm 138  GNT

This seems to be the easy part when God enters into my world, especially after I have failed because I left Him out. I am praying in the reality that I know who God is – that He is personal, alive and active and His character of love and faithfulness are signs of His promise to me – His strength strengthens me.

It seems right that everyone, even those in authority in the world, can join together to praise and honour the greatness and sovereign power of the Lord.

It is because of this that I can ask God for help as I go through my own troubles. This is the prayer that we can all pray and I am thankful that the one who wrote this Psalm has offered it to us.

“However great may be our wonder for you, O Lord, your glory exceeds what our tongues can express”

“Praise to you, to whom all things are easy, for you are almighty.”

“Praise to you from all who understand your truth.” – Ephrem the Syrian

Here is the simplest prayer that I could find and that I could use at any time.

 At this the woman came and fell at his feet. “Help me, sir!” she said.

Jesus answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

“That’s true, sir,” she answered, “but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table.” – Matthew 15:25-27  GNT

Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on this short prayer that anyone at anytime could pray.

“She could not solve the problems of the destiny of her race, and of the Lord’s commission; but she could pray…If, as a Shepherd, he may not gather her, yet, as Lord, he may help her.”

“I urge you who seek the conversion of others to follow her example. Notice, she did not pray, ‘Lord, help my daughter;’ but, ‘Lord, help me.’”

“I commend this prayer to you because it is such a handy prayer. You can use it when you are in a hurry, you can use it when you are in a fright, you can use it when you have not time to bow your knee. You can use it in the pulpit if you are going to preach, you can use it when you are opening your shop, you can use it when you are rising in the morning. It is such a handy prayer that I hardly know any position in which you could not pray it: ‘Lord, help me.’” 

God is a Creator God, the maker, protector, sustainer, and ruler of all creation. He is a God of truth, a speaking God with whom we may have a personal relationship. He is the covenant God, who is faithful to his promises, who has bound himself to us that we might bind ourselves to him. He is the triune God, one and yet three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not only our King but our Friend and Spouse. Our hearts were made for him to be our only joy. – Timothy Keller

Endure with prayer, do not keep silent

enduring prayer, do not keep silent

I have experienced what it means to be looked on with contempt, as an object of ridicule. The feeling produced is one where I felt I was nothing, where I was not even a person. So praying the Psalms is real to me.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud. – Psalm 123:3-4  GNT

I have not experienced this at the hands of people who have hated my faith in God and so I pray for those being persecuted like this because of their faith. God’s people are experiencing this right now – they are being kicked around, ridiculed, disrespected, mocked and treated as if they were nothing. The early Church knew what this was all about – intimidation, physical suffering and for some, martyrdom. How did they endure it? By prayer and an added blessing that comes through prayer – Spirit enabled joy.

I am encouraged to be in prayer always.

On your walls, O Jerusalem,
    I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
    they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
    take no rest. – Isaiah 62:6  GNT

Prayer warriors matter – they constantly pray and when you think about it, as they take no rest, they do not give God rest either until the matter is resolved.

 “There is a threefold rich thought: (1) The Lord Himself does not rest with regard to Zion; (2) He does not want His petitioners to keep silence in their prayers for Israel; (3) and He does not want His people to leave Him alone concerning Israel’s deliverance.” – Harry Bultema

“A restless Savior calls upon his people to be restless, and to make the Lord himself restless – to give him no rest till his chosen city is in full splendor, his chosen church complete and glorious.” – Spurgeon

“‘Give him no rest’ is our Lord’s own command to us concerning the great God. I do not suppose any of you ever advised a beggar to be importunate with you. Did you ever say, ‘Whenever you see me go over this crossing ask me for a penny. If I do not give you one, run after me, or call after me all the way down the street. If that does not succeed, lay hold upon me, and do not let me go until I help you. Beg without ceasing.’ Did any one of you ever invite applicants to call often, and make large requests of you?… He does in effect say, ‘Press me! Urge me! Lay hold on my strength. Wrestle with me, as when a man seeks to give another a fall that he may prevail with him.’ All this, and much more, is included in the expression, ‘Give him no rest.’” – Spurgeon

It reminds me again of this challenge regarding the kingdom of heaven.

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’[c] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,[d] cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. – Matthew 10:7-8  GNT

Once I have spent my time in prayer, it will be time as Jesus did, to move among people and not just to preach and pray but to provide action – heal, raise the dead, cleanse and cast out demons. Quite a challenge.

I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different. How shall I put it?

We can’t—or I can’t—hear the song of a bird simply as a sound. Its meaning or message (‘That’s a bird’) comes with it inevitably—just as one can’t see a familiar word in print as a merely visual pattern. The reading is as involuntary as the seeing. When the wind roars I don’t just hear the roar; I ‘hear the wind.’ In the same way it is possible to ‘read’ as well as to ‘have’
a pleasure. Or not even ‘as well as.’ The distinction ought to become, and sometimes is, impossible; to receive it and to recognise its divine source are a single experience. This heavenly fruit is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew. This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows. It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore.

Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’

One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.

If I could always be what I aim at being, no pleasure would be too ordinary or too usual for such reception; from the first taste of the air when I look out of the window—one’s whole cheek becomes a sort of palate—down to one’s soft slippers at bed-time.

I don’t always achieve it. One obstacle is inattention. Another is the wrong kind of attention.

One could, if one practised, hear simply a roar and not the roaring-of-the-wind. In the same way, only far too easily, one can concentrate on the pleasure as an event in one’s own nervous system—subjectify it—and ignore the smell of Deity that hangs about it. A third obstacle is greed. Instead of saying, ‘This also is Thou,’ one may say the fatal word Encore. There is also conceit: the dangerous reflection that not everyone can find God in a plain slice of bread and butter, or that others would condemn as simply ‘grey’ the sky in which I am delightedly observing such delicacies of pearl and dove and silver. – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer