Praying like Moses did… (Numbers 14)

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Numbers 13-14 are a sombre moment in the story of the Bible. A moment that the book of Hebrews reflects on over and over again, warning believers in Jesus to not be like these Israelites.

Israel’s unbelief and grumbling against God, so provoked God that eventually, God said; “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?  I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Numbers 14:11-12)

In His righteous anger, God declared that He would blot out His people and start again.

However, fortunately, God’s people had a leader who knew how to pray! And because He prayed, God relented. God didn’t wipe out the whole nation in an instant. Instead, God punished the 10 spies who brought a false report and then also punished the generation that didn’t believe – so that they never entered into their inheritance.

But in the midst of all of this, God also made a promise that wicked generation’s children – they would inherit the Promised Land.

So how did it come to pass that God relented, changing His mind by not instantly wiping out this generation? Moses prayed, and in his prayer, we can learn some things that we can imitate in our prayers;

  1. Moses Prayed for God to the Glorified: Moses prayed that God would protect the glory of His name, His glory. Moses urged God not to destroy His people because if He did, that would be misunderstood or derided, by the onlooking nations (Numbers 14:13-16). Moses called on God to act for the sake of the fame of His name.
  2. Moses Prayed based on who God is: As Moses prays, he recalls the encounter he had with God. When God revealed Himself by passing before him speaking the words that Moses now quotes in his prayer (see Exodus 34:6-7). God is the one who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, who forgives sin yet remains just and righteous as the judge of the earth.
  3. Moses Prayed appealing to the Immutability of God: When Moses prayed; “As You have promised”(vs17) he was appealing to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. Moses knew that He could stand on the promises of God since God could not lie and would not change. And then in vs19 when Moses asks God to pardon His people, He asks God to merely continue being gracious to the people of Israel just as He had been consistently from their deliverance from Egypt to the present. Moses’ prayer is founded on the confidence of who God is, how God has acted in the past and in that God can not change (God is immutable).
  4. Moses Prayed that God would Forgive: On the back of these prayers for God’s name to be glorified, these prayers that appeal to the nature of who God is & how God has acted in the past Moses then makes his appeal and asks God to be gracious and merciful, Moses asks God to pardon His people (vs19).

And because Moses prayed, God changed His mind. Our Father God loves it when we pray when we come to Him, confident in the relationship that we have with Him through faith in Jesus. God loves it when we pray asking with confidence because of what we know about Him, WHO He is and HOW He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and through our very own encounters of Him.

Why not use this structure that Moses prayed with to help form some of your prayers?

  1. How can you pray for God to be glorified in this situation?
  2. How does WHO God is, connect with this need/prayer?
  3. How does God being immutable help you pray with confidence now?
  4. Bring your request to God on the basis of these three things.
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