When Prayer Changed the Mind of God
The visible glory of God descended, then manifested on the top of Mt. Sinai. As many as six million Israelites heard the audible voice of God speaking to them from the majestic fire. The entire nation quaked and trembled in holy fear. In response, Israel’s leaders begged Moses that no further words be spoken to them by God. Moses agreed, then turned and ascended the mountaintop and entered this frightening holy blaze where He remained for forty days. (See Exodus 19:17-20:19; 24:18.)
Incredibly, when Moses delayed his return, the Israelites began to rebel, making for themselves an idol, a golden calf, similar to the idols of Egypt. They did this in full view of the glory of God, defying His glory with their outrageous idolatry. (See Exodus 31:1-8.)
Nothing angers the living God more than man’s idolatry, and this brazen act was enough to have destroyed all Israel, both the sinners and also those who saw their sin and did nothing to stop it. In response, the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation” (Exod. 32:9-10).
This is an amazing verse. It reveals something of the inner workings of the divine mind. I am thinking in particular of the Lord’s statement: “Let Me alone.” The implication is that if the Lord is “alone”—that is, without an intercessor to appeal to His mercy—divine wrath can be fully expressed. Conversely, the opposite is also true: wrath can be restrained if we, as intercessors, do not withdraw our entreaty. As long as Moses does not withdraw from prayer, there is a mercy opportunity that is being made possible.
The goal of an intercessor is to remain in prayer; i.e., to “not let God alone.” This is not to imply that we are more merciful or forgiving than God. That would be quite untrue. What is true, though, is that some measure of divine grace and forgiveness – an unreasonable measure – is reserved in God’s heart and only escorted to earth by human intercession. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished; His mercy, however, triumphs over judgment and can be enlisted by prayer.
Our quest is to unite in oneness with the mercy of God. Conversely, the devil’s goal is to create the opposite relationship between us and God where we accuse people for their sins and failures. Satan seeks to embitter us against our loved ones and associates, neighbors and nation so that our desires are not redemptive but accusatory and judgmental.
Peter tells husbands to not be embittered against their wives so that their “prayers will not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Underline this truth: bitterness hinders intercession. The Lord desires we climb into His very thought-processes in extending mercy to earth. In this, the mercy-oriented intercessor attracts the full attention of God.
“Let Me alone,” the Lord said. Yet Moses refused. Instead, he reminds the Lord of His promises for Israel as well as His relationship with Israel’s forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 32:11-13). Too many intercessors misinterpret the Lord’s initial pushback and report, erroneously, that God has exhausted His mercy. He has not. In fact, His mercies are new every morning. Moses’ response to the pushback was to prevail upon God’s love. He reminds the Lord of His purpose, repeats the Lord’s promise, and he does not stop praying for Israel.
Moses became a mature intercessor. He stayed close to God, prevailing in prayer. Even though the Lord said He would make of Moses a great nation, Moses ignored the prospect. He knew all people would have times of sin and failure. Moses had come too far to start over. This journey was about a covenant that was made with Israel’s forefathers.
Remember, the assignment is to bring an imperfect people with a promise from God into fulfillment. The intercessor’s role is to pray from the beginning of that journey, through the valleys of sin and setbacks, and continue praying until the promise from God is obtained.
You may be a pastor of a church or an intercessor or a parent. Regardless, whoever you are praying for, you must have this attitude: “Lord, I am not letting You alone concerning my loved one.”
When I pray, I never pray for divine wrath to fall; I always pray for mercy and grace. I agree with God that wrath is justified because of man’s sin, yet I plead with God for mercy and correction.
The result of Moses’ intercession is utterly amazing: “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exod. 32:14).
May this be a revelation to us all! Moses’ prayer changed God’s mind!
Much of how God relates to the future of a nation is based upon how the people in that society pray. The Spirit has made one truth plain to me: The future of a society does not belong to sinners; it belongs to those who pray. Thus, Jesus tells His disciples that whatever two of them agree on “about anything that they may ask” (Matt. 18:19), it will be granted by the heavenly Father. Two or three servants of God who refuse to abandon their faithfulness in prayer can release the mercy of God into their world.
For Moses and the Israelites, the outcome was profound: “the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exod. 32:14).
Think of it: prayer changed the mind of God.
Lord, thank You for always remaining open to our cries. Help me to persevere, to give You no rest, until You fulfill Your highest purposes with my family, church and nation. Thank You that one voice is not too feeble that You cannot hear it. Master, I stand in the gap for those I love. Reveal Your mercy to them.
—adapted from a chapter in Francis’ book,
The Power of One Christlike Life