Don't Just Pray—Get Moving

September 6th, 2011

Elvis Presley used to sing, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.” Politicians have used this song (slightly out of context) over the years in their campaigns, and their message is clear. You can't just talk, you have to be willing to move forward.

I was reading over this week’s lectionary passages and when I came to the Old Testament reading I decided to jump back to the beginning of Exodus 14. Pharaoh and his army were chasing the Israelites, and when the Israelites realized it, they became scared and started giving Moses grief.

They said to Moses, "Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the desert? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt like this? Didn’t we tell you the same thing in Egypt? ‘Leave us alone! Let us work for the Egyptians!’ It would have been better for us to work for the Egyptians than to die in the desert." (Exodus 14:11-12 CEB)

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites for their whining because we know how the story ended. (I’d like to think that I’d have been one of the calmer ones in the group, waiting for God to do his thing. But somehow I doubt it.) Moses did his best to reassure everyone, although he didn’t seem certain about what was going to happen either.

Moses said to the people, "Don’t be afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never ever see again. The LORD will fight for you. You just keep still."(Exodus 14:13-14 CEB)

Then Moses prayed. But scripture doesn’t tell us what he said. The narrative goes from Moses telling the people to keep still, to this: "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to get moving.'" (Exodus 14:15 CEB)

But didn’t Moses just tell everyone to keep still? Now God is saying to get moving.

I wonder what it was that Moses prayed. Was he asking for help or was he telling God about everyone’s complaints? Whatever it was, the LORD bluntly told Moses that it was time to do more than pray—it was time for action.

Perhaps Moses was praying after he had his answer, or maybe he was waiting to receive more information than he needed to move forward. I do the same thing. It's easy to overspiritualize prayer, especially when we use it as an excuse to put off doing what we know we need to do. I call this prayer paralysis. Maybe that's not what was going on with Moses, but it is clear that it was time for him to do something. Take note that God pushed back the sea, but not until Moses had stetched out his hand over it. God could have done it automatically—but he didn't.

Be still, but get moving.

Pray, but be ready to put legs on your prayers.


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