BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (225): How about Moses’ experience of prayer?

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

GOD’S INITIATIVE: Moses also experienced prayer as an initiative of God, who inspires us to inquire and search and thus prepare ourselves to hear His voice.  “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here am I’” (Exodus 3:2-4).

The Lord doesn’t say, “Hey, you, come here.” The Lord calls his name: “Moses.” That’s what he also did with Abraham: “God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I’” (Genesis 22:1). That’s what God does with us as well. He calls out our name. And, like Abraham and Moses, we need to respond freely, “Here am I.” That’s what we do in prayer.

LOOK AND CONTEMPLATE: Moses “looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight’” (Exodus 3:2-3). Prayer is a loving gaze in which God tells us about Himself: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO AM’” (Exodus 3:14).

“The prayer of Moses was typical of contemplative prayer. God, who called to Moses from the burning bush, lingered in conversation with him often and at length, ‘face to face, like a man with his friend’ (Exodus 33:11)” (CCCC 537).

Moses’ contemplative prayer transformed him. God’s light shone through him. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exodus 34:29). When we set aside time before the Lord, we become beacons of light and hope to others.

INTERCESSION: Like Abraham, Moses also learned to intercede for the Israelites. Prayer enlarges our heart and makes us go out of our own little selfish world. “In this intimacy with God, Moses attained the strength to intercede tenaciously for his people: his prayer thus prefigured the intercession of the one mediator, Christ Jesus” (CCCC 537).

We remember how the Israelites kept on complaining to Moses about their situation. On one occasion, they told Moses, “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:4-6).

What did Moses do? As always, he turned to the Lord and poured his heart out. “Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why hast thou dealt ill with thy servant? And why have I not found favor in thy sight, that thou dost lay the burden of all this people upon me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I bring them forth, that thou shouldst say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries the sucking child, to the land which thou didst swear to give their fathers?” Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, “Give us meat, that we may eat.” I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me. If thou wilt deal thus with me, kill me at once, if I find favor in thy sight, that I may not see my wretchedness’” (Numbers 11:11-15).

What was the Lord’s reply? “Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you, and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come forth out of Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:18-20).

When we pray for others with full trust and confidence in the Lord, we can obtain for them not only material benefits, but the graces that they need in order to live and behave as God’s chosen ones.