Mornings are my favorite. I get up before everyone else. And with a cup or two of coffee, I read and pray and study and write. Some days verses jump off the page at me as though God wrote them just for my heart. I treasure those moments. God speaking to me through His word and me embalming my fears and hopes and dreams and doubts with each purposeful promise.
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 17:8-16
Key Verse: “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” Exodus 17:11
It’s a sweet time. But then…the kids wake up. And I don’t know what happens, but at the first sign of fighting or whining because we’re not having french toast or complaining because we have this cereal and not that one, I blow up.
Gone is any trace of a quiet time.
In zero to sixty I go from spiritual to barely holding on. Feeling the stark contrast between my new nature and the old, my spirit and my flesh.
Paul understood the struggle. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law, waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
It’s an everyday battle. A battle I’m sometimes ready for but half the time not. A battle most scholars agree is typified right here in Exodus 17, in the battle Israel faced against Amalek.
Note when the battle takes place – after the water had fully and freely flowed from the rock at Meribah. After that which symbolizes the Holy Spirit had been given. Then the battle came. Because it’s not until we’ve been given the new nature that we have any fight with the old. And it came from the back no less. It was a sneak attack on the weak and weary; for it’s in my weakness I’m most vulnerable. Look what Deuteronomy 25:17-18 says:
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.”
There is no fear of God in the flesh, is there? Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and the flesh is not wise. A lesson we most of the time learn the hard way.
So if “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do,” (Gal. 5:17) how do we win? How do we have victory when it’s a daily, draining hard fought battle? A battle Satan seeks to see us lose.
As Joshua lead the Israelites down below in a sword fight, Moses watched from up on top a hill. But he wasn’t just watching and hoping everything turned out OK, he was interceding on behalf of Israel with his arms raised high, the staff of God in his hand.
1 Timothy 2:8 says, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” David said in Ps. 28:2, “Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.”
I’m not saying our prayers don’t count unless our hands are up in the air. No, no. Moses’ hands raised heavenward was simply symbolic of an inner dependence on God. A dependence that takes place through prayer.
And it mattered. Moses’ intercession wasn’t a waste of time. In fact, it was the only thing that mattered. Verse 11 says, “When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.”
Moses’ hands had to be up. Joshua couldn’t win in the flesh, without the help of the Spirit. Thus when Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur sat Moses down on a rock and held his hands up for him. It was that important! It was that necessary!
It’s why Paul instructed us in Ephesians to take up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18).
And again in 1 Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (5:17). And why Jesus said in Luke 18:1 that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Prayer is the avenue by which we gain the victory. It’s not an ineffective use of time, it’s the most effective use of time.
Is our country falling apart at the seams? Pray. Is our leadership struggling? Pray. Are the kids driving you crazy? Pray. Do you continually fight for control like I do? Pray. Does your mouth run ahead of you like mine does? Pray.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
The LORD didn’t tell us to pray at all times just so He could add something else to our to-do list. He knows full dependence on Him through prayer, is the only way we’ll come out on top. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Jesus said in John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
It isn’t when all else fails – pray. It’s before all else fails – pray.
Yet much of the time, we still try to fight the battle alone. Then finding failure at the end of a long day, it’s frustration we gain instead of freedom. Panic we keep instead of peace. But the victory is always and forever in Jesus and it comes by way of prayer.
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Is prayer a daily part of your life or is it a last resort? When have you seen the power of prayer in action?
For what battle do you need to pray about today? Is there someone you can come along side to help keep their arms up?