When Not to Pray

       After years of crying out to God for deliverance, the children of Israel had a front row seat to view the epic battle between God and Pharaoh. The fight went for ten rounds as God exacted His punishment on the hardhearted people of Egypt as personified in their ruler. Protected by the blood of the covenant, the Jewish children were spared as the Death Angel claimed the lives of the firstborn from Pharaoh’s household all the way down to the field laborer. It was the final blow. Each plague had taken an increasingly greater toll on the rich land of Egypt until despite the economic benefit of keeping the Hebrews as slaves it was too costly to hold them in bondage anymore.

            In a grand procession of triumph, the Children of Israel left behind the suffocation of slavery. They made great progress until they arrived at the Red Sea. Perhaps they thought they would hug its coastline as they moved north or that they would enjoy a few days of rest on its shores. No matter. They looked behind to see Pharaoh’s chariots in full pursuit, the grief of their oppressors now turned to murderous rage. A brief respite came when God blocked the way with a thick cloud. But everyone knew that was temporary. The frustration of not finding the Jews only increased the Egyptians’ hurricane of hate.

            Turning on Moses, the children of Israel cried out, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness (Exodus 14:12). After trying to calm the people and reassure them that God had not abandoned them, Moses apparently turned to the Lord in prayer. But this was no time for a prayer retreat, no time for an all night of prayer or for that matter to take time to pray at all. God said to him, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward" (Exodus 14:14). Move, Moses! Get those people out of here!

            The reason that Moses could move like this is because he had spent so much effort in prayer before the crisis. A casual reading of Exodus will reveal that Moses knew the Lord intimately not only from the amount of time he spent with Him but from the earnestness of his prayers. But even with all of that there came a time for action.

            The next thing we should note is sometimes the answer is so obvious that there is little reason to ask if God is behind it. In Moses’ case it was watching the Red Sea divide before him. While I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar I believe I am on solid ground in saying that dividing seas are closely linked with divine intervention. To pray for guidance as to whether or not to walk through the way before him would be for Moses utter foolishness. God is at work. Go forward.

            It is absolutely true that many do too much without a thought of asking God for guidance. But then there are others who wring their hands while they wait for the heavens to part with the answer written with carefully lettered clouds. To these God says, “Why do you cry to Me? Go forward!”

            By all means saturate your life in prayer. But don’t ask for God to guide you if when He does you are going to malinger instead of move. Go forward!