1 Samuel 4:22 Then she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”
Israel thought that in the height of a battle that the Ark of the Covenant would be enough to give them victory. So, they brought the Ark from the Temple to the battlefield with the hopes that it would do for them what it had done in the past and go before them in victory.
The problem, of course, was the people were not right with God. No symbol, or principle, or practice, or religious training has the power to deliver you in the day of calamity. The only hope we have to be restored to God is through repentance and an appeal for His Mercy. When crisis comes, we say, “Let’s go to prayer.” That is a good thing that we pray, because it means we are dependent on Him for our help. However, what is missing in that admonition to pray is this: God wants us to pray with hearts that love and obey Him. Here are a few examples where He tells us that if we are not living for Him, He may not answer:
Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Isaiah 1:15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!
The point the Scripture is making is that prayer is heard by God when we obey Him. God also takes into consideration the state of our hearts. For example, in Luke 18:9-14, in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the lesson in prayer is about humility. Approaching God with arrogance and a heart filled with “I deserve to have, to be, or to do” is a heart that is full of self-importance and entitlement. This entitlement is a state of pride that declares, “I have served you God, so now I am entitled to the answers to my requests.”
In Samuel’s day in the history of Israel, we have a story in 1 Samuel 4 where the Glory of God departed. Why? Israel thought it was entitled to victory because they had the Ark of the Covenant, and that gave them a ‘free pass’ … a sure sign of God being on their side. They forgot that the Ark was a sign of God’s Covenant with them, but they had to keep it in order to benefit from it. Prayer is often thought of in the same manner as Israel thought about the Ark … it’s a lucky rabbit’s foot. God knows our hearts today just as He knew the hearts of Israel that day on the battlefield where they thought they would be victorious.
What’s in our hearts that gives us the idea that if we just pray, God will answer? All my Christian life I have seen people pray and heard their cries for God’s help. 9/11 was a tumultuous time for the United States and during that time people prayed. Their prayer was mostly for the restoration of the country, for safety, and for protection against the enemy. Yet, within months of that national tragedy we were back living like there was no tomorrow.
Prayer needs to start by asking God’s Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus taught that when He taught on prayer. What is happening in Heaven is what we want on earth. This starts with the right heart that is surrendered to God, that is obedient to Him, and that worships Him. Our prayer should start with “Change me, oh God, make me know and do your ways.” (Psalm 25).
God’s Glory departs because there is a conflict in the heart. It is the story of two lovers wanting to dominate the love of the heart. The first lover is called self and is persistent in getting what it wants. The other lover is called God and He is persistent too, but will let free will dictate the final decision of the heart.
Israel had a relationship with God, but allowed their selfishness to think they only had to bring God out of the box when they needed Him and they would be saved. Prayer doesn’t bring God out of the box, it isn’t to be an exercise in getting what you want … it is meant to change you into what God wants.
The Glory of God is best seen when prayers of a righteous man/woman are answered … not because it was good for them to get what they wanted, but they allowed God to have His Way in their lives.
Whether or not we are in crisis today, our prayer should always be, “Change me oh God, make me know your ways and lead me.” It is the greatest prayer you could ever pray.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler