For the week of June 22, 2019 / 19 Sivan 5779
Torah: B’midbar/Numbers 8:1 – 12:16
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7 (English 2:10 – 4:7)
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If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness. (B’midbar/Numbers 11:15)
I was recently chatting with a waitress in a restaurant about some weaknesses in the overall service there. It was exactly what I had read in an online review and thought she should know. She wholeheartedly agreed with me yet could do little about it since she was new at her job. So I suggested she pray. She looked at me funny for a moment. So I repeated myself, not knowing where she was at on this subject. I told her that praying was simply talking to God and that not only does he have infinite resources at his disposal, he is generous. She made it clear to me I gave her something to think about.
As believers in Yeshua we know this (though some may want to have a discussion on the theology of prayer and whether it is appropriate to describe prayer like this to a stranger). Be that as it may, what I shared with this stranger included an essential dynamic. I offered no formulas; I didn’t tell her what to say. At the same time, I made no promise as to what God’s answer might be. All I did was encourage her to start the conversation. The conversation would be on a particular topic, which in this case was help in resolving a need which she could not resolve on her own. Since right at the beginning I defined prayer as talking to God, the conversation had to start with her personally and purposely talking to him. There’s so much more we can say about prayer, but without this dynamic, I don’t know if much of what we call prayer is actually prayer at all.
Moses knew how to pray. That he did is vividly illustrated in the brief verse I quoted from this week’s parsha (Torah reading portion). Moses found himself being a waiter extreme. The whole nation of Israel whined like children for food. He had seen God do so much, yet the pressure of the people’s demands had completely overwhelmed him. He was done, and he told God so in no uncertain terms. Talk about a prayer from the heart! Moses held nothing back and told God exactly what he thought and how he felt. Thankfully, however, answered prayer isn’t always getting the items on our list. It’s about God meaningfully engaging us in response to our requests and desires.
I don’t know about you, but the best way I can describe some of my prayers is muddled. Even though I set aside some time each day to pray, am I really praying? To be honest, it’s not too unusual for me to do some sort of combination of wondering, thinking, wishing, and muttering. I’ll catch myself daydreaming of who knows what before I realize what I am doing. At that point I try to focus and really pray, which sometimes I do. When I do, it’s as if I shift from muddled to clear. I know who I am talking to and what I am trying to say.
This is why I remind myself what I encourage others to do: pray out loud. While I cannot discount all silent prayer, there is very little Scriptural basis for it. Even if there were, attempting to project thoughts to God from our heads is very difficult, if not impossible. How would we differentiate thinking from praying when silent? Praying out loud reminds us that we are actually speaking to another being who is not us.
Many years ago when I was in Bible college. I had a roommate from Africa. He would wake up before me and have a time with the Lord at his desk. I would hear him whispering in prayer. I thought, he really believes he is talking to someone! It encouraged me to do the same.
Realizing we are truly talking to God makes all the difference. And that’s just the beginning. Unless we intentionally do so, then whatever else we may be doing, we are not praying. Why not start right now?
Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version