One of the greatest responsibilities family leaders have is cultivating a vibrant dynamic of prayer both for themselves and for those they love. This world can strip of us of a lot of things, but no one or nothing can take away our ability to have personal communion with the Most High God. Affirming this communion, and modeling it, day-in and day-out, is absolutely essential.
A brief glimpse into Moses’ life can be instructive here. Consider this moment as found in Exodus 33:7 and following:
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
From the passage a small handful of observations merit reflection. First, note that Moses had cultivated a rhythm for prayer, having both a place and a consistent habit or pattern of approaching God. For Moses it was the Tent of Meeting, located just outside the sprawling camp of the Israelites. That it was just beyond the camp tells us that Moses found it valuable to step away from the moment-by-moment chaos of living so as to rest before the Lord (see Ex. 33:14). He had identified a place to go and chose to do so regularly. We should do the same. Perhaps it is a favorite chair by the fireplace or a walk around the neighborhood or a bicycle ride or a spot at the kitchen table. Maybe its in the morning or every Saturday or just before bed. What would work for you?
Another observation is that Moses clearly was willing to be a role model to an entire nation. And this from the most humble man who ever lived (cp. Numbers 12:3). Indeed, when we first really meet Moses in Exodus 3-4 we discover that he has an esteem problem and that he stammers. He practically begs God to pass on him to lead the people of Israel. And yet this man becomes the fatherly example of devotion to a watching nation (see Ex. 33:8). We must be willing to put ourselves out there for those we love, showing them that companionship with the Almighty is necessary and worthwhile.
Another observation is that genuine friendship with God is possible. Moses and God spoke, the text tells us, “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). The old adage that prayer is just like talking to a friend is, in fact, really true. Unfortunately, many of us spend too much time overthinking our approach and being too stiff and uptight and formal, so much so that we become profoundly self-conscious and too easily spooked about the whole thing. We need to remember that our Lord invites us to “rest” (again, see Ex. 33:14) before him, not fret.
We should note, too, that we may speak with boldness before the Lord. Moses was very willing to lay himself and his needs out before the Lord. If Exodus 33:7-11 portray the rhythm by which Moses approach the Lord, verse 12 and following offer an important sample of what their interaction looked like. Within the verses that follow verse 12 Moses is profoundly bold and to the point. We can be too.
But, we must be so with humility and reverence. We should never forget, as Exodus 33:20 declares, that there are limits to how much we can experience of God—his holiness and majesty serving as a veil to full disclosure of himself. And so, let us approach God freely and boldly and talk with him as a friend, but let us remember he is, indeed, Almighty God, and worthy of all the respect and dignity that such a position demands.