Intercessory Prayer and Boundaries
Moses said to God, “Consider too that this nation is your people.” – Exodus 33: 13
To say that God was disappointed by the whole Golden Calf fiasco would be an understatement. Yahweh was furious.
So much so that God told Moses to take these miserable people and proceed to the Promised Land without divine accompaniment. “I’ve had it with this lot. You go … without me.”
At which point Moses did a remarkable thing. He challenged God. Specifically, Moses reminded God that these people, this band of ex-slaves who were sometimes faithful and often faithless, were God’s people—not his.
“Consider,” said Moses to the Holy One, “that this nation is your people.” Emphasis on “your.” And this whole liberation project? Your idea, not mine.
In 21st century speak, Moses had really good boundaries.
Which is one of the things about intercessory prayer that we may not always notice. In such prayer, we are placing those we care about in God’s hands—and relaxing our own grip.
This could be helpful for all sorts of people who have some responsibility to care for others, whether pastors, parents, or principals. Ultimately, the congregation, the children, the students aren’t yours. They are God’s.
And sometimes the very best thing you can do for those for whom you are tempted to care too much is to lift them up in prayer before God, relinquishing your claim and asserting God’s, calling upon God to be God.
With the poet T. S. Eliot, we pray, “Teach us Lord to care and not to care.” Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers will be published early next year by Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.