Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Glory

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18)

I like saying “yes.” Saying “yes” often enough tilts the odds in my favor when it comes to being well thought of, known as a great guy. This feels good to me. So I say yes quite a bit; sometimes I say it when I ought to say “no” or “sorry.”

Just last night my son poked at his mac and cheese, sullen in his refusal to eat. It had nothing to do with the mac and cheese. The folks at Kraft make it almost impossible to mess that up. The pouting had to do with a song that we won’t download to the iPod he just received for his birthday. “You’re too protective,” he said. Two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, I was pleased with his proper use of the word protective. Second, I admitted my guilt. “Maybe so,” I replied. “But we’re still not downloading that song.” Period. Like I said, “yes” is much more fun. When it comes to parenting, it’s not always possible or wise.

The long conversation with God that spans Exodus 32-33 shows Moses before God in a gutsy act of intercession. He’s shameless in his requests. He makes no excuses, he offers no rationalizations. God is justified in his anger at Israel – but Moses prays on their behalf anyway. He does more than pray. He keeps raising the stakes with every petition, growing bolder, willing to test the limits of mercy, unafraid to push the envelope of grace. His prayer finally culminates in one go-for-broke petition. “Now show me your glory.”

And God said, “no.” A “yes” simply wasn’t possible because God’s glory, 100 proof, would have killed Moses. No one could look at God’s face and live. Tomorrow we’ll reflect on how God did cause his glory to “pass by” Moses – but for now it’s the request itself that holds our attention.

While all prayer is directed to God, there is a kind of praying that is aimed at something other than God. We pray for health. We pray for rain. We pray for a baby. We pray for a raise or a new job. We pray for our children. We pray for others to know Christ. We pray for our spouse. We pray to find a spouse. All of these are good and worthy prayers. Jesus himself taught us to ask and seek and knock, to pray for our daily bread.

But there’s another dimension to prayer that seeks nothing more than God, and God alone. There’s a kind of praying that yearns for God, to know God, to be in God’s company. We get prayers like this from the Psalms: “My soul thirsts for God” (Psalm 42:2).

This may be the highest form of prayer. The challenge for us is that we are far more aware of actually wanting other things. We ache to have the job or a baby or a clean pathology report – and if God can’t come through, well then . . .

What are you praying for today? What are the most pressing desires you bring to prayer? Try this: for a few moments, borrow the words of Moses’ brash prayer. Get bold and ask for a fresh glimpse into God’s character, God’s love for you, God’s goodness, God’s power and strength. Linger a while with that prayer, and it might impact how you pray for everything else.

We acknowledge, O God, that our prayers are often small. We give you thanks for the way you invite us to bring our needs and requests to you. And we know that beneath all of our desires is our need for you. Reveal yourself to us today in a new way; teach us more of who you are. Give us just a glimpse of your glory, we pray. Amen.

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