Imagine a refugee camp in the middle of the desert. The people take down their tents in the morning and ready themselves for the day’s hike. The fitter ones have already started down the road. Those less agile – the elderly, the disabled, the families with small children – lag behind. Suddenly, a war cry fills the air. Armed men on swift camels storm into the camp, killing, stealing, taking captives. If you were the leader of these refugees, what would you do?
This is the situation described in Exodus 17:8-16. The Hebrew people had escaped slavery in Egypt and were making their way to the Promised Land. Without warning or provocation, they were attacked by the fierce Amalekites. What was Moses’ response?
He sent a young, inexperienced man named Joshua, who had never seen battle, out to fight the enemy. He gave Joshua very little instruction in what to do. Then Moses and two of his top leaders climbed a hill so that Moses could spend the day in a posture of prayer.
This response may seem strange to us. Why not station your best leaders in the place where the fighting is fiercest? Why not spend more time explaining strategy to your soldiers? Why not go to the battlefield yourself? Why waste your day praying when people’s lives are at stake?
Oswald Chambers answered those questions with these words: “Prayer is not preparation for the battle. Prayer is the battle.”
Apparently, Moses understood what many Christians and most churches today seem to have forgotten. True spiritual victory is not attained through our hard work or brilliant strategy. Victory is won by God in response to our prayers. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
Joshua and his men defeated the Amalekites that day, but not because of their superior fighting power. They won because others gave themselves to prayer. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (Exod. 17:11-13)
As a church, let’s never forget where true victory is found. Let us give ourselves to prayer.