Christianity 201

November 9, 2022

When Prayer Moves the Heart of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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It’s nearly a year, but we’re very grateful to HarperCollins Christian Products for their special permission to carry book excerpts from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan authors.

Matthew 6:11

  • Give us today our bread for the day (Weymouth)
  • Give us today the food we need (NLT)
  • Give us this day our bread sufficient for sustenance (Smith’s Literal)
  • Give us this day the bread for our support (Anderson New Testament)

Today’s author has appeared here once previously. Tyler Staton was a pastor in New York City for many years before moving one coast to another where he became the lead pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, which was founded by John Mark Comer. He is the National Director of 24-7 Prayer Movement which makes it even better that his new book is Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer (Zondervan). (See links below.)

Daily Bread (chapter excerpt)

In Exodus 32, we get a glimpse into Moses’s prayer life. To set the stage, God is very unhappy with the Israelites, and his anger is well-founded. After freeing them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, feeding them with bread from the sky, and quenching their thirst with water from a rock, they’ve begun to worship another god. God voices his anger, and in response, Moses prays, essentially calling God back to his own character:

Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.” (Exodus 32:12-13)

Moses is holding God to his word. He’s reminding God who God is: “by your own self.” He’s not just pleading with God to give him what he wants. It’s more like he’s reminding God what God really wants.

And check out God’s response: “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Wait, what? Moses confronted God . . . and won? Yeah. Something like that.

The word relented is the translation of the Hebrew word naham, which can also be translated as “changed his mind” or even “repented.” God nahamed. God changed his mind. God repented. Really? That’s really what it says.

This doesn’t mean God was caught in sin and went to confession. Naham doesn’t mean God was in the wrong. It means God was moved emotionally. Moses’s prayer moved the Creator of the universe on an emotional level. That’s what the Bible teaches.

Aristotle famously called God the “unmoved mover.” The God Moses prayed to is more like the “moved mover.” He’s moving heaven and earth, but he’s also movable. He hears us. He actually listens and actually cares. He responds. This idea of God may seem pretty radical, but that’s only because many of us have a concept of God formed more by Aristotle than by Moses.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of mystery here. There are so many unanswered questions. Sure, that’s how it happened with Moses, but what about Malachi? He heard God say, “I the LORD do not change.” But then there’s Hosea, to whom God said, “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” How can both of these revelations of God be equally true? Because God is a relational being to know, not a formula to master.

When it comes to any relational being, we’re gonna have to get comfortable with mystery. We will never know anyone so thoroughly that there’s no mystery left. I will know and love my wife for the rest of my life, and I’ll never reach the end of her. I’ll never eliminate the mystery in my most intimate relationship.<

Of course, it would be dangerous to form an entire theology out of this one Moses prayer, but there is a definite biblical pattern supported by this passage: God responds to his own character. That’s his nature. John Mark Comer concludes, “God is more of a friend than a formula.”


Excerpted with permission from pp125-6 in Praying Like Monks Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton ©2022 Tyler Staton. (link is to book’s page at zondervan.com)

Previously by Tyler Staton here at C201: Searching for Enough excerpt

Teaching at Bridgetown Church based on the book.

For an overall look at the book, Click here for my review.

Bible translations used in our introduction were from BibleHub.com (click ‘additional translations’ after search results)