Joshua 7:1-15 (Part 2) – When It Comes To Prayer, Are You Dating God or Are You Married to Him?

Posted: June 7, 2017 in Book fo Joshua
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Joshua 7:1-15 (Part 2 of 4)

Ai Defeats the Israelites

Have you ever felt like that your prayer life was disconnected? Have you ever felt like that your prayer life is not what it is supposed to be? Do you feel like your prayer life is pale in comparison to those of others that you hear pray? Do you feel like you are rambling all over the charts when we you pray publicly yourself?

 

The answer is a resounding yes to all those questions, for me. I feel like these days and have felt for a long time that my prayer life is empty. I don’t feel as though that I am praying to anything when I pray these days. When I pray I feel no close connection to God. Not like it is supposed to be. I just feel as though, when I actually do pray, I am going through the motions. Just saying what needs to be said. A public prayer, I just touch on the points that need touching and not really feeling connected. I just feel as though I am occupying time when I pray at times. It’s been a while since my soul was stirred by my own prayers. It’s been a while since I felt the Holy Spirit settle over me and lift my soul to the presence of God. My prayers in this place that I am right now just feel like the kid at the chalkboard writing repeatedly “I will talk in class unless given permission by my teacher” 100 times on the board as punishment for being disruptive in class. After the first two or three times of writing that sentence on the chalkboard (and, yes, I have had to do this as late as my high school 11th grade history class), you just robotically write the words with no connection to what is being written. You are just getting through a task from the 4th time to the 100th time you write the sentence on the chalkboard. That’s how I feel about my prayer life right now. I am just going through the motions to get the task done.

 

Then, I feel even worse about my own prayer life when I hear others pray publicly or talk about their own prayer lives. It does not bother me so much that my prayer life may not be as good as, say, the elder/pastors at my church. They are full-time ministers. They get asked to pray constantly over their careers and they have gotten pretty darn good at it. And, add to that, they are probably light years more spiritually mature than I am. But what strikes despair in my soul is not them but rather the prayers of everyday people at our church. They look at me, since I am on staff at the church, and think that I am some spiritual giant but I feel inadequate when it comes to prayer – the thing that is, to me, the most critical part of being a Christ follower. I hear other people pray and they seem to have all the right words to say and it seems so genuine. They move the spirit of other people when they pray. Their prayers are like getting on one of those old fashioned theme rides where you get in a boat on water and you are transported through this 3-D animatronic world as you float through. You are taken away to another place. I have friends who pray in such a way that you are taken through illustrative words to a spiritual place that is a whole other world and you thank God for having listened and for having been transported to this wonderful spiritual place that they have taken you. I hear people pray with great emotion and come to tears as they pray. I just love hearing these kinds of prayers – the ones that take you away to a place, transported by their flowery, spiritual words and those that just touch your heart. Why is my prayer life not this way? Why?

 

Then, when I do get the opportunity to pray, I feel as though I am rambling and making no sense at all. I may pray down a road of thought and then forget how to land the plane, as the saying goes. I fumble and ramble. I repeat thoughts. I forget what I had prayed previously. I get jammed up. I don’t use all the fancy prayer buzz words that are common to Christianese. Shortly put, I feel as though my public prayers are travesties of justice. That’s why here lately, I have shied away from publicly praying because I feel so inadequate compared to other prayer warriors. I just feel ashamed over my prayer life and my ability to pray effective prayers in public. Just being completely honest here.

 

That idea of feeling inadequate in prayer is what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 7:1-15 for the second of four times that we will read through it. Let’s read it together, now:

 

7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

 

2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.

 

3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

 

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”

 

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

 

13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.

 

14 “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”

 

In this passage, for this morning, we see that Joshua and the elders tore their clothing and through dust on their heads, an ancient Israelite custom that demonstrates deep mourning before God. They were confused by their defeat at Ai after their spectacular victory at Jericho. They went before God in deep humility and sorrow to receive His instructions. Imagine praying this way before God. This prayer was not some formulated church prayer. It is a prayer of a man who is afraid and confused by what is happening around him. Joshua poured out his heart and his real, gutty thoughts to God. Hiding our needs from God is to ignore the only one who can really help. God welcomes honest prayer and wants us to express our true feelings to Him. From this passage, we can learn that it is OK to be honest with God in our prayers and that He is not going to zap us or smite us from revealing our true feelings to Him. It is only through such honesty that we grow more intimate with our Maker.

 

It was that honesty and that heartfelt emotion that I admired of Joshua here this morning when reading through this passage a second time. I made fun of his whining about the defeat at Ai in my blog yesterday and, yes, Joshua deserved it. He failed to consult God in prayer before the battle. But I do admire his reaction as the passage goes on. I think he realized that He should have consulted the Lord in prayer and goes all out in prayer. He humbles himself before the Lord and pours out his heart to the Lord. He is honest with God. He lets it all hang out.

 

Maybe that’s the lesson that I need to learn today if I am ever to get my prayer life back on track or let’s be honest – to get it on track. I don’t think I have ever really been good about prayer. That say that in order to get good at something, you have to practice. Instead of having these formula prayers that I sometimes pray. Or praying what I think God wants to hear and ignoring what is really on my mind. Maybe, I need to be like Joshua and just let it all hang out. Just be totally open and honest with the Lord. Not be afraid to reveal to the Lord what I am really thinking. He already knows what I am really thinking anyway. It is just a matter of me being honest about it. God wants, I think, for me to throw my garbage out on the table and help me examine it from His perspective. God wants me to be honest about it when I am angry at Him about something (even with it being unfounded). He wants me to be real with Him and just say what needs to be said. It’s like the transition from dating your wife to being married with your wife. When you are dating you show her the best of you. When you are married, you show her all of you. That’s what makes marriage last is the honesty and real-ness between a man and a woman as they progress through their lives together. Should we not be that way with God.

 

We should be married to God when it comes to prayer not just dating Him. We should reveal all our raw-ness, all our emotion, all our angers and frustrations, all our sorrows as well as all of our joys. He wants all of us. The depths of emotion not just the intellectual ascent to His existence. He wants us to be real with Him. He wants no formulas. He wants the real you and the real me. He wants us to be married to Him in prayer where we reveal everything by choice and knowing that we are safe doing so. He wants us to quit dating Him in prayer and saying just what we think He wants to hear. He wants us to be married to Him in prayer so that we can reach a level of intimacy that comes only in the honesty and no-holes-barred way that marriage is.

 

Amen and Amen.

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