One of the most counter-intuitive moments in scripture is when the children of Israel are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.
The people are panicked, angry at Moses for getting them in this mess, yelling at him, asking why he had them escape just to die, telling him they would rather be slaves in Egypt than slaughtered in the desert.
It wasn’t a great “leadership moment” for Moses.
On top of them being angry, Moses gives some advice and guidance that seems right initially, but he gets it totally wrong.
He tells them, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.”
Sounds like good advice and great faith, doesn’t it?
We hear this advice all the time.
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will rescue us from this sad world.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of the poor.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will bless us and give us the desires of our heart.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of our needs.”
This was God’s response to Moses’ advice to, “Not be afraid. Stand still and watch the Lord rescue.”
He said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Quit praying and tell the people to get moving!”
Now I grew up in church and I never heard one sermon where the pastor told us to quit praying.
In fact it seemed like all we did was pray.
We prayed for Jesus to come back.
We prayed that evil people would get their due.
We prayed that we would not get stained by an immoral world.
We prayed for who would become president.
We prayed that God would bless us financially.
We prayed that other denominations would become holy like we were.
We even prayed for people less fortunate than us.
We prayed, went home for a week, and then came back and prayed again.
We prayed often, with eloquence.
Our church would have won a prayer contest.
We even had a chapel called the “House of Prayer.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for prayer.
Prayer is where I gain my intimacy with God.
Prayer is where I get the power to live.
Prayer is where I gain wisdom.
Prayer is where I find peace.
Prayer is where I experience rest.
Prayer is the foundation to my life in faith.
So why did God tell Moses to quit praying and get moving?
Well, here is my theory. And I think it is a pretty good one.
Many times prayer is an excuse to not do something that we know God has already told us to do.
There are many things we don’t have to pray about.
Serving the poor.
Caring for orphans.
Taking care of widows.
Being a father to the fatherless.
Feeding the hungry.
Sheltering the homeless.
Clothing the naked.
Forgiving our enemy.
Rescuing young women and children who have been sex trafficked.
These are things we don’t have to pray and ask whether it is God’s will or not.
In fact, it is possible to actually pray more while moving farther and farther away from God.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah once and said, “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen…See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.”
This may be blasphemy, but I would like to challenge the American church to pray less and do more.
Get out of your prayer meetings and go help someone.
Leave your worship services and feed someone.
Stop talking about the poor and invite the homeless into your services.
Stop building bigger buildings and spend more money on local and global missions.
Stop looking the other way and sponsor children in poverty stricken countries. (www.compassion.com)
Cancel your women’s teas and your men’s breakfasts and rebuild a widow’s home or mentor a child who has no father.
Stop praying for blessings and help those who God has asked us very clearly to help, because that is where the blessings are!
I believe that God is saying today, “Stop asking me for more things, stop asking me about my will, I have made it very plain what I want you to be doing.” (Read Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, James 1:27, Psalms 82)
I think He would go on to say, “And while you are doing those things, pray! Pray hard, pray often, and I will give you the strength and the wisdom and courage to shine your light and “storm the gates” of poverty and hopelessness and loneliness and the world will be drawn to Me and the world will know that I am love.”
What happened when God told Moses, to quit praying and get moving?
They experienced a miracle.
May the church do the same!
Share with me what you think about this topic after reading some great quotes about prayer and action:
Action without prayer is arrogance, prayer without action is hypocrisy. – Jose Zayas
Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy. – Dean Inge
Witness the fact that in the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach. – Woodrow Wilson
About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation. – Will Rogers
Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. – Søren Kierkegaard
Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish. -Author Unknown
I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. – Frederick Douglass, escaped slave
Practical prayer is harder on the soles of your shoes than on the knees of your trousers. – Austin O’Malley
Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” – Alan Redpath
Call on God, but row away from the rocks. – Indian Proverb
Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor. – Mother Teresa