Moses listens to the Lord’s fuming. God was angry as heck at the Israelites for their infidelity, and vents about it. God resolves to wipe the slate clean (with intense heat) and go back to the drawing board on this people business. Even worse, he calls them stiff-necked (v. 9)!
But it isn’t until God singles out Moses to be his designate for the new start that Moses is moved to pray. And who could blame him? As Frederick Buechner said, “when God puts the finger on people, their troubles have just begun.”
Prayer, in its various forms, is a mystery. If someone were to tell you that it isn’t, go the other way. Most people get shy when asked to lead a prayer. They defer to a minister if one is present. If not, they look to someone who goes to church and thereby has heard someone pray.
Most prayer is a solitary, personal experience. Some prayers are part of a morning or evening routine, a ritual for getting in alignment with God. Some prayers arise out of desperation, like those uttered in a hospital waiting room or on a mountain retreat when everything you’ve given your life to and worked for is falling apart. That’s where Moses is in today’s passage.
Prayer is both an awareness of failure and uncertainty and the necessary container for their transformation. Sister Jane, an Anglican contemplative, put it this way: “I suppose that ‘praying constantly’ means coming more and more to know and accept the impossibility of making sense of the way things are…ultimately we have to depend on the gift of God’s grace in order to believe beyond sight in his way of love.”
What am I holding back from God in my prayer? What am I expecting God to do with my prayer? What does God want from me?
Loving God, if you were to ask something of me, would I be able to hear it for all the cluttering words I bring you? Help me to listen. Amen.