|Theme: Acting Deceitfully to Seek Relief through Prayer
|Focus on: Pharaoh and Moses
|Reading Portion(s): Exodus 7 to 10, Jeremiah 17:9.
|– Important Background Information
|– Helps you find strength in God
|What this article teaches you
|Our prayers are not always pure. They contain wrong motives. Many times we try to deceive God when we pray. This kind of prayer to deceive takes place step by step. The sad thing is that we don’t realize this deception in our own praying. One reason is that God keeps answering our prayers because of His great mercy.
But there is a danger here. The deception in our prayer increases step by step. Then comes a time when it will cross all limits. That is the time when God will not listen to our prayer. And His judgment will come. So it is better to understand how this kind of deception comes into our praying. A very good example of how it happens is given for us in the example of Pharaoh who opposed Moses and God. Learn from his life how he acted deceitfully in prayer and finally had to face God’s severe judgment.
Did you know that there is a Pharaoh in our hearts when it comes to prayer? There is no need to be surprised at this question. Quite often we use deceit or deception when we pray. Usually we do not think of such kind of praying as sin. But it is sin. We think it as trying to buy time when we pray like that. But we often don’t realize that we are acting deceitfully with God.
Pharaoh had the people of Israel under cruel bondage and oppression. When God sent Moses and Aaron to speak to him to let the Israelites go he only hardened his heart and increased the misery of the people. So God sent ten plagues one after the other on the land of Egypt till Pharaoh allowed the people of Israel to march out of Egypt.
As we look at the plagues that came upon the land of Egypt we find that there was a constant dialogue going on between Pharaoh, and Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron would go and meet Pharaoh and deliver to him the message that God had given them to speak. They kept on asking him to let the Israelites go as the Lord had commanded. But Pharaoh kept on refusing. Then God would ask Moses and Aaron to say or do something that brought a plague on the land.
Four times during the series of the ten plagues we find Pharaoh calling Moses and Aaron to himself after the plagues started and asking Moses to pray to God so that the plagues may be taken away. It is evident from this that Pharaoh knew that it was not the hand of Moses that created the plagues but the hand of the Lord. And he also understood that miracles happened when Moses prayed.
It is interesting to observe how Pharaoh proceeded with his requests. The first request for prayer came after the second plague of frogs. He told Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from him and his people and then he would let the people go. Moses responded by giving him the honor of setting the time for him to pray. Pharaoh asked him to pray the next day. Moses told Pharaoh that he will definitely pray so that he will know that there was no Lord like their God. So after Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses prayed and all the frogs in the land died. Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart as he saw there was relief.
When there is a Pharaoh in our heart; this is stage one of our praying. We pray to God to give us relief from a particular problem. In addition, we promise God to do something. We may tell Him that we will stop doing this particular sin from tomorrow onwards; we will start doing this good thing from the next day or we will start witnessing to many people about God’s goodness as soon as God gives relief.
God is a prayer-answering God; and true to His nature He grants our request. Then the Pharaoh within our heart raises his head. It will make us harden our hearts. We will forget everything we promised to God when we prayed for relief. Not only that we return to our former ways because we find that we got relief in answer to our prayers.
The second request for prayer from Pharaoh came after the fourth plague of flies. This time the Lord made a distinction between the people of Egypt and the Israelites. There were no flies in the place where the Israelites lived. But the entire land of the Egyptians was ruined by the flies.
Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and told them to go and sacrifice in the land of Egypt. This offer they refused. Then Pharaoh told them to go and offer sacrifices in the desert. But he asked them not to go far. Then he asked them to pray for him.
Moses was not convinced. So he told Pharaoh that he will pray the next day. But he asked Pharaoh not to act deceitfully as he did earlier. Moses prayed and the flies left the land. Not even a fly remained. Yet when Pharaoh saw this he hardened his heart again.
See how Pharaoh acted deceitfully. This is the second stage of our deceitful praying. We tell God that we are ready to do something. But in our minds we are not ready to go all the way that God wants us to go. Pharaoh here tells Moses to go and sacrifice in the desert; but they are asked not to go very far. So in our praying we make a pretense of obeying God; but that obedience does not go all the way.
The plagues continued because Pharaoh kept hardening his heart every time he saw there was relief. The third request from Pharaoh came after the seventh plague of hail that came upon the land with great fury. By this time some of the officials knew that the Lord’s word would stand and they hurried to bring their slaves and livestock inside their shelters. But others who ignored the Lord’s word left their slaves and livestock in the field.
The hailstorm came as Moses had said. It was the worst hailstorm in the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. But there was no hail in the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. When Pharaoh saw the destruction the hail had brought about he called Moses and Aaron and asked them to pray to the Lord.
Now here we see the third stage of deceitful praying. This time Pharaoh had all the appearances of a penitent man who was sorrowing over his sins. Pharaoh told them that this time he had sinned. He added that the Lord was in the right and he and his people were in the wrong. So he said that he would let the people go since he had enough of thunder and hail. He did not want the people to stay any longer.
This shows how deceitful a heart can be: “Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (Psalm 64:6b; Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)? We do not realize how often we use such deceit in our prayers. Our lips may speak out words that makes us think that we have truly repented. But we are deceiving ourselves. We tell God that He is righteous in all that He had allowed to happen to us. We tell him that we have sinned. We ask God to give us relief.
Though Pharaoh’s spoke the words of a penitent heart Moses knew better. He told Pharaoh that he would indeed pray by spreading out his hands in prayer for the hail to stop. This was for Pharaoh to know that the earth is the Lord’s. But he also added that he knew that neither Pharaoh nor his officials feared the Lord even then.
Even though Moses knew that the Pharaoh’s talk was all pretense he prayed to God. The rain and hail and thunder stopped. And Pharaoh and his officials hardened their hearts as always.
The final request of Pharaoh for prayer came after the next plague; the eighth plague of locusts. Before sending this plague God asked Pharaoh through Moses as to how long he would refuse to humble himself before Him. When the officials heard of the threat of the plague of locusts they requested Pharaoh to let the people go and asked him whether he did not realize that Egypt was ruined?
Pharaoh seemed to listen to their advice. He called back Moses and Aaron; told them to go and worship the Lord and inquired as to who all will be going. When Moses told him that all of them with their entire livestock will be going to celebrate a festival to the Lord; Pharaoh changed his mind and drove Moses and Aaron out of Pharaoh’s presence.
Then according to the Lord’s command Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt. An east wind came driving the locusts in. There remained nothing green in the land of Egypt after this. And Pharaoh was quick to summon Moses and Aaron back again. This time he added more words to his plea. He told Moses that this time he had sinned both against God and against them. So he asked them to forgive his sin once more. He also wanted them to pray to God to take away this deadly plague.
Look how a deceitful heart makes its requests before God. This represents the fourth and final stage of our deceitful praying. This time we go one step more than before. Last time we accepted we had sinned. This time we ask God to forgive us. We also add “once more.”
Moses again prayed. The Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind. The locusts were caught up and carried into the Red Sea. Not one locust was left. This is how God answers our prayers. Yet we harden our hearts and use deceit in our prayers.
We do not find Pharaoh asking Moses to pray for him again. Maybe it was because he had crossed the final stage of deceitfully seeking prayer. What remained for him was severe judgment.
God listens to our prayers. There is no doubt to it. Even when we are not truly sincere in our praying God sometimes answers our prayers. This is to give us time to repent and set things right with God. But as we have seen here in Pharaoh’s case a time will come when we cross all limits in his kind of deceitful praying. Then only judgment remains!