Struggle in Prayer
by Pr. Dave Mann
I get a lot of food for thought when I read/listen to posts on DesiringGod.org. My meditation finds its roots in one of these.
When Moses is gone for many weeks on Mt. Sinai, the people of Israel, under Aaron’s leadership, slip away easily into idol worship. Then, God declares to Moses the people’s sin, his intention to destroy them, and the plan to start over with Moses and his descendants.
Amazingly, Moses’s reflex is to pray to God for mercy and to lean into God’s own reputation. Both here in Exodus 32 and in Numbers 14:11ff., Moses pleads for God to forgive the people. Moses is concerned for God’s own reputation among the pagan nations if he were to destroy his people, even if they deserve it. Moses does not minimize the sin of the people. He does not plead for the Lord to act outside of his holiness. However, Moses offers himself in the place of the people, as a sacrifice. This mercy, in addition to God’s purity and righteousness, is in the character of God.
31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
Praying a self-sacrificial prayer is a good reflex. It mirrors the character of God himself. Many of us have family members or co-workers or neighbors who are not following the Lord. They may have walked with God in the past, but now they are living in the way of iniquity. They may be reaping the just consequences of their own bad choices. God would be in the right to let them experience the pain and brokenness that would follow logically. God is holy and just in his judgments. He has warned us, and we have spurned his teachings. And yet, it is also God’s character, in addition to his holiness, to forgive, to redeem, to bring the dead back to life.
Moses prays for God to turn from his righteous anger and to relent from exercising his perfect judgment. So, when our hearts ache at the news of yet another broken life caused by ungodly choices, we can join the ranks of biblical characters, and yes, even Jesus himself, as we prayerfully lean into God’s character of forgiveness and redemption.
Lord, have mercy on ________________. They do not deserve your mercy, and neither do I. Take from my life what you need to work out your redemption for him/her/them. For the sake of your own name and glory, forgive and bring back ________________into your ways, by your grace. I pray not for my own sake, nor for this person’s sake, but for the sake of the redemptive reputation of Jesus Christ, Amen.