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

When we need to pray

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I like the acronym “A. C. T. S.” we use as a guideline for prayer. While “adoration” is a great place to start, I find that “confession” is usually where I start and out of that time comes a flow of worship.

Then I confessed my sins to you;
    I did not conceal my wrongdoings.
I decided to confess them to you,
    and you forgave all my sins. – Psalm 32:5 GNT

It is a prayer that we all need to pray.

I notice that one of the first things I lose when I find myself stepping away from God is the absence of confession and quickly it becomes the absence of prayer itself. Losing time reading/meditating on the Bible, hearing the voice of God and ultimately when I stop seeing/pondering the beauty of creation come closely after that. I start each day with this thought in mind —

I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 GNT

“Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.” – Lewis