The most compelling reason there is to pray
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. Exodus 17:11 (NIV)
Some things only happen if someone prays and will not happen if someone does not pray. That is the intriguing message from this verse. If that is true, it is the most compelling reason there is for a person to pray – especially for the things we want to happen.
This startling lesson on prayer took place shortly after the children of Israel left Egypt and began their journey into the wilderness toward the promised land. They were attacked by a people called the Amalekites, and Moses sent Joshua out with an army of men to fight them. Moses, along with his brother Aaron and another leader by the name of Hur went up on a nearby hill to watch and pray.
Unlike so many of us, they had the enviable benefit of observing exactly what happened when they prayed and when they didn’t. It was like God Himself had engineered a lab experiment on prayer. Having the vantage point of watching from the top of a hill, they were able to see the direct results of their prayers as they surveyed the battle raging in the valley below.
It did not take long for them to discover that winning the battle was directly dependent upon their prayers. The problem was they had to figure out a way to enable Moses to keep from dropping his hands in prayer. So they “took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” (vs. 12) That clearly did the trick and we are told “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (vs. 13)
This lesson on the priority of prayer was so important that God instructed Moses to record the details of the victory on a scroll so that it would never be forgotten. (vs. 14) And Moses himself was so overwhelmed by the significance of this revelation about prayer that he “built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.” (vs. 15) “He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.’” (vs. 16) He did not ever want to forget about the deciding difference prayer makes.
I think we can now surmise from this passage of scripture in Exodus 18 that the message is loud and clear: some things only happen if someone prays and will not happen if someone does not pray. However the way God answers prayer, His will and His timing, are so cloaked in mystery that we do not know what things in life specifically fall under this rule. That is always the x factor when it comes to prayer. It therefore challenges us to take seriously the admonition to “pray without ceasing” – especially for the things we want to happen. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Based on this principle of prayer we can see why it has been said: we should pray as if everything depends upon God and work as if everything depends upon us. That is what Israel through Moses and Joshua did and God gave them an amazing victory. Should the desired victories in yours and my life be won with any less effort?
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