Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. So now leave Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians talk, saying, ‘With evil motives He brought them out, to kill them on the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and relent of doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the Lord relented of the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:9-14)
We can see the mystery of prayer at work in this passage, along with the freedom to pray with boldness for what is on our hearts, what we believe is just and good and moves the Kingdom of God forward.
The mystery of prayer here is that Moses’ prayer seems to impact God’s response to the Israelites. God had a course of action in mind, Moses prayed, God committed to a different course of action. Where is the mystery? God is sovereign - and our prayers matter. God is sovereign, so our prayers are not commands and he is not like a genie in a lamp. But, within the sovereign rule of our King, there is room for our prayers to operate and impact His actions. There isn’t a promise that we get everything we pray for, but there is a promise that our prayers are more than simply words.
And, in that, there is a great freedom. It is good that God isn’t under our control, because we would make a mess of things. Yet we can pray for what is on our hearts, without a fear that we are ‘praying for the wrong things.’ It is important that we seek to pray for and submit to His will - but we don’t always know what that is and we don’t have to wait until we know it perfectly. We can pray. God is not under our control - and our prayers matter in the mystery of God’s sovereign will. So let’s pray.
Action: Are there things you are afraid to pray for or unsure if you are allowed to pray for them (and which aren’t explicitly unbiblical)? Lift those things to heaven with freedom and boldness and trust that God hears and will work in accordance with his will and our prayers in a way beyond our understanding.