Pastor Rod Thompson
Midland SDA Church
January 20, 2018
Today we finish the annual 10 days of prayer that our conference uses to bring us all together to focus on prayer. As we have been praying (for Unlock Revelation) I can’t help but think about something that Ellen White said in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p 162.
“Brethren and sisters, have you forgotten that your prayers should go out, like sharp sickles, with the laborers in the great harvest field? As young men go forth to preach the truth, you should have seasons of prayer for them. Pray that God will connect them with Himself and give them wisdom, grace, and knowledge. Pray that they may be guarded from the snares of Satan and kept pure in thought and holy in heart. I entreat you who fear the Lord to waste no time in unprofitable talk or in needless labor to gratify pride or to indulge the appetite. Let the time thus gained be spent in wrestling with God for your ministers. Hold up their hands as did Aaron and Hur the hands of Moses”
Do you remember the experience of Moses and Aaron and Hur? God had brought Israel out of Egypt with a strong arm and an uplifted hand. He had brought them through the Red Sea and they sang the song of Moses. But when they got out into the wilderness the water was bitter. So they complained to Moses and God gave instruction to make the water sweet.
But then they were hungry for meat and complained against Moses again. So God said you want meat I’ll give you meat. And they ate quail tell it was coming out of their ears. Then they moved on from the wilderness of Sin and camped in Rephidim, but there was no water there, so the people complained again. This time Moses was instructed to strike the rock.
Read Exodus 17: 6-7
Here we see that is says that they tempted God. What this is saying is that the people tempt to manipulate God. In other words they think that God needs to deliver what they desire and when they want it – otherwise they threaten to change gods. They were trying the patience of God, and aroused His holy anger by their continued lack of faith and ingratitude.
So notice what happens
Read Exodus 17: 8-13
I don’t know about you but when I read that I tend to quickly move over the events and assume that it was Moses holding up the rod and that’s about it. But I would like you to notice what the pen of inspiration adds to the story.
Brothers and sisters, if you are not reading the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy together you may miss some important details.
In the book Patriarchs and Prophets we get more of the story. P 298
In their thirst the people had tempted God, saying, "Is the Lord among us, or not?"--"If God has brought us here, why does He not give us water as well as bread?" The unbelief thus manifested was criminal, and Moses feared that the judgments of God would rest upon them. And he called the name of the place Massah, "temptation," and Meribah, "chiding," as a memorial of their sin.
But a new danger now threatened them. Because of their murmuring against Him, the Lord suffered them to be attacked by their enemies.
Here we see that it was because of their murmuring that God allowed this attack of the Amalekites. Who, by the way, are the descendants of Essau.
She goes on to say, The Amalekites, a fierce, warlike tribe inhabiting that region, came out against them and smote those who, faint and weary, had fallen into the rear.
In other words they were attacking those who were the weakest. Those who were falling behind. Much like the wild beasts do when they are hunting their prey.
God didn’t like that. God didn’t like that means of attack, shall we say, that unfair way. And God told Moses to have Joshua take the army and go out and fight.
But the interesting lesson for us is that while Joshua was down there in the plain with the army fighting Amalek, Moses was where? He was on a hill praying. Now you might say Pastor, how do you know he was praying? Exodus 17:10 simply says that Moses lifted up his hands.
Patriarchs and Prophets P299
Accordingly the next day Joshua and his company attacked the foe, while Moses and Aaron and Hur were stationed on a hill overlooking the battlefield. With arms outstretched toward heaven, and holding the rod of God in his right hand, Moses prayed for the success of the armies of Israel.
So here we see that as the custom in those days was, Moses was praying with his hands uplifted.
Well, by and by Moses’ hands began to get heavy, and they came down. And somebody noticed that down there in the valley, there was a change in the tide of battle. Amalek was winning. And that gave Moses a fresh spurt. He thought, “Oh, no! We’ve got to have some special help!” And again he raised his arms and pled with God most earnestly in prayer.
It was observed that Israel was winning the battle. But again Moses’ hands got heavy. (Did you ever try to hold your hands up for a while or keep in any position for any great length of time?) Well, dear friends, as the tide of the battle went back and forth, depending upon how Moses’ hands were, it was observed that there was a relation (don’t miss this point!) between the prayers of Moses and the tide of battle there in the valley. And we read what they did, didn’t we?
Aaron and Hur took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Question: what won the victory?: Joshua’s fighting or Moses’ prayer? Well, it took both, didn’t it? I suppose that all the Amalekites observed was the work of Joshua and his men with the sword. Probably that’s all they knew about. But Israel knew where the power was; they knew the source of their victory.
And so my dear friends, as someone has written, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Prayer stopped the mouths of those lions in the den of the king of Medo-Persia; prayer opened the prison gates where Peter was bound; prayer brought the victory to Israel over the Amalekites; and prayer, we read in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, page 162, like a sharp sickle, is to go out with the preaching of the ministry and help to gather in the harvest.
Question: Can something that you and I do at home affect what happens miles away in evangelistic endeavors? Can it? Well, if these words that we’re reading mean anything, that’s exactly what happens.
As Ellen White says in The Great Controversy, P525
“It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which he would not bestow did we not thus ask”
And I’ll tell you, friends, if my job is to be there with Joshua in the plain fighting Amalek, that’s where I want to be, don’t you? But if my job is to be on the mountain praying to God while Joshua fights, I want to be there. And maybe my job is just to hold up somebody’s hands. That’s all Aaron and Hur did, wasn’t it? They just held up Moses’ hands to encourage him and help him to keep right on praying.
I’m impressed, dear friends, that we need some Aarons and Hurs right now in a very special way. There are some who have grown weary and faint. But I’ll tell you one thing: it’s easier to keep on fighting when you’re weary than it is to keep on praying when you’re weary. Do you know that?
It takes more of whatever it takes to keep on praying when one is weary than it does to keep on fighting. There’s a certain amount of adrenalin that seems to go with a hard battle, but it takes grace and faith to pray and keep on praying. So Moses was helped by Aaron on one side and Hur on the other.
So, as we’re praying for the evangelistic effort that is going through the church, as you are praying for that special someone in your life, I trust that we’ll pray, also, for every weary heart in this war. The enemy is fighting a great battle. And if we knew all the facts, there are probably a lot of people right here in this room that are in a battle and need our help in holding up their hands in prayer.”
Over the last several months, if you have been coming to prayer meeting, then you have heard about some of those who are praying for a lost spouse, a lost child, friend, neighbor. And we could hear the anguish in their voices as they shared with us their broken and shattered hearts over the one they love.
I know that there are many of you who are weary and tired, and the burden of my heart is to ask all of you to pray, not only for the souls who are in the valley of decision, the souls that are facing the great tests of this time, but pray, as the apostle Paul says in
Romans, 15:30 “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”
“Strive” – what does “strive” mean? “Put forth some effort.” I think it would not be wrong to use the word fight. It has the idea of wrestling as Jacob did there that night by the brook. Strive, fight. Fight what? Fight the devil; fight our own weakness, our own lethargy, our own tendency to go to sleep.
You know, that night as Jesus was praying in Gethsemane, and when He asked His disciples to pray with Him, they tried. And they did pray for a little while and then what happened? They got drowsy and went to sleep. The servant of the Lord says in Desire of Ages P687, that they could have shaken off that drowsiness if they had continued to pray resolutely, but it was easier to go to sleep.
So, I say, let us pray for the souls that you have been working with, let us pray for those who we will be working with in Unlock Revelation. Let us pray now, Tonight, tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow night, and during next week, for all those souls who will be making a decision. And while we pray for them, let’s pray for every weary one in this church – weary of body, weary of mind, weary of soul.
As I told you, the Amalekites attacked those who were weary and were straggling along. That’s what the devil does. He’s a mean old fellow, just as mean as he can be, and if there’s somebody weary, overworked perhaps, overtaxed, then the devil will try to pounce upon that one and take advantage of the situation and bring discouragement upon the soul.
Last week I was reading a very interesting letter that Sister White wrote from New Zealand back in 1893. You remember that some months before she had gone over to Australia in answer to the call of the brethren there, given through the General Conference. She went over there to strengthen the work. But very soon after she got there, she was attacked with sickness.
Week after week, month after month, went by. For some time she was afflicted with pain all over her body accept her right arm. She felt that was providentially spared in order that she might continue writing. And she wrote hundreds of pages during that time of enforced retirement from public speaking. Sitting propped up in bed on pillows, she wrote some of those marvelous chapters of The Desire of Ages that thrill our hearts now.
Well, the enemy tried to discourage her. This letter I was reading tells about how she longed to come home. She was over there. She wondered what it was all for. There were other discouragements beside the sickness. Even after she got well from that, she wondered why there was no more support from America, why more means and workers weren’t sent out there to that needy field.
The prophets of God are not above temptation, friends. Jesus Himself, when He took our flesh, met the temptations that we must meet. But all of these – Jesus and His prophets and His men and women in all ages – have found in prayer, their support.
Today you and I are summoned to pray for souls in the valley and for dear ones, our dear brothers and sisters who are especially under the pressure of the enemy. Oh, there’s a battle going on, dear friends, a battle over every soul! Do you feel it?
May I suggest, friends (for I think when we pray, we should always do what we can to help answer our prayers; don’t you think so?) Remember it wasn’t just the prayers of Moses but it was also others actively engaged in the battle.
May I suggest to you one way that the enemy is working (And oh, how cruel and mean he is!) When we are weary, when we are pressed, then he tries to break us off from the heard and he attacks viciously.
So I suggest to you, friends, let us not be ignorant of the devil’s devices. Let’s recognize the enemy as he comes, suggesting doubts and worries and fears and suspicions to our soul.
My Brother’s and sisters, there are two things that I want you to know. In the first place, when there is a burden that is pressing you down, and you feel frustrated, I want you to go to God alone and seek to pray that thing through. And if you find in Christ the answer that takes away that frustration and gives you the peace and the strength to carry on, fine. That’s all that is necessary.”
But, if in spite of your prayers and earnest seeking of the Lord that thing is a burden to you is not lifted, then I say give me the opportunity to pray with you, that together we may share that burden and seek the Lord in united prayer until that frustration is gone.” For, dear ones, we cannot long succeed with some frustrating thing eating away at the vitals of our experience.
If it doesn’t give us ulcers of the stomach, it’ll give us ulcers of the soul. So Jesus says to each of us, “Come to Me with your burdens. Come to Me.” And if we come to Him and all alone with Jesus we find that He hears and answers, wonderful. We can bear a ringing testimony of faith and courage. But if after our prayers and efforts to correct this thing that we desire, then come to a brother or a sister and ask them to pray with you as well.
And brothers and sisters, I say to you, don’t just pray once with them, but put that person on your prayer list, take it into your prayer closet and plead with God on their behalf. Befriend that person, get to know them, and if the Lord gives you an opportunity speak to them as well.
I remember a time when a brother had asked to see me, and other burdens and appointments made it so that I couldn’t get there. A few days later I had the privilege of being with this person and indicated that the time had come for us to pray together. This man said, “Well, Brother Rod, we won’t need to go into that. The Lord has handled all that.” And with radiant face, the testimony was given of answered prayer.
I like to hear that, don’t you, friends? Yes. There are times when God’s best way is to hear us all alone as we take the burden to Him in prayer. But there are other times when it’s necessary for us to claim the promise of
Matthew 18:19-20 I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, It will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
And I suggest to you friends that if everything we need could always come and would always come in answer to prayer all alone, then this promise would not need to be in the Bible. And if it doesn’t need to be, it wouldn’t be there. And so, while there are things that God is waiting and longing and anxious to do for each one of us, personally, in intercessory prayer, there are other blessings that come as we seek Him unitedly, in little groups – two here, three there, a larger number perhaps in other places.
We’re going to pray now, and in harmony with the things that we’ve read, we’re going to expect that God will answer.
In Acts 12 we read the story of how Peter was kept in prison under constant watch while the church kept praying fervently to God for him.
The soldiers kept guarding and the church kept praying. Which one won? You know: the church won. Their prayers were stronger than all the soldiers. It’s a wonderful lesson in the efficacy of prayer – earnest prayer, persevering prayer.
You remember the rest of the story here. While the church prayed, the angel of God came and opened the prison doors and let Peter out and he was delivered.
Let us pray. Let us be done with formalities and formal set phrases. Let each one pray briefly and to the point as the Spirit of God moves upon your hearts. And let us know that God is hearing us as we approach the mercy seat today.