EDITOR’S NOTE: Walker Moore passed away June 26, but the Baptist Messenger continues to publish his cherished previous columns. The following was first published August 2011.
When I was a child, my family attended a small country church. This white-framed, wooden building was surrounded by a cemetery. I guess the congregation wanted to be as close as possible to the resurrection of the dead.
What I remember most about the church, though, was not its cemetery, but its prayer life. These people prayed all the time. Broken and weeping, they took their requests before the Lord.
Prayer has always confused me. Sometimes I pray, and God moves Heaven and Earth on my behalf. At other times, prayer feels as though I’m tossing bricks skyward. My petitions don’t travel far before they come crashing down. And I realize many of you have prayed for years without feeling as though God hears you.
God taught me that our prayers end up in one of two places. The first is the Red Sea, when Moses brought the Israelites out of the Promised Land. He encountered an insurmountable problem. The Israelites whined and complained that they would have been better off if Moses had left them to die in Egypt.
Moses, already a wise leader, told his crabby crew to wait and see what great things God would do. You know the rest of the story. God parted the Red Sea, and Moses and the grumpy Israelites crossed in safety.
Red Sea prayers end with God changing the external. I’ve often witnessed the results of prayers like these. For example, our ministry has never asked for money. Instead, we pray and leave our requests at God’s doorstep. One day we needed $5,000. My wife and I were in the back of our office praying when we heard someone at the front door yelling, “I’m a delivery boy from God!”
We went to check out the commotion. There on the ground was an unmarked envelope. We opened it to find the exact amount of money we needed. Our prayers ended in the Red Sea, where God moved external circumstances to meet our needs.
But not all prayers are answered this way. King David didn’t get the answer he wanted when his son became ill. For seven days he prayed and asked God for healing, but his son died anyway. And when Paul asked God to remove the thorn in the flesh, He didn’t do that either.
Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked God if it would be possible to remove the cross. Three times, He asked His Heavenly Father if He had an alternate plan. But God didn’t give Him one.
All these prayers ended up not in the Red Sea, but in Gethsemane. A Red Sea prayer changes external circumstances. A Gethsemane prayer changes the internal—or rather, it changes you!
The Gethsemane prayer changed King David. He rose from his prayer to worship God. The Gethsemane prayer also changed Paul. He realized the thorn in his flesh was meant to keep him humble. And of course, the Gethsemane prayer changed Jesus. He moved from “Let this cup be removed” to “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done.”
All prayers end in one of two places: the Red Sea, where God does an incredible thing and changes the external; or Gethsemane, where He changes the internal.
Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. Unless you pass through Gethsemane, you can’t reach the cross.
Which is the greater prayer: Red Sea or Gethsemane? I believe the Gethsemane prayer has more power because a changed life changes lives.
When I pray, I don’t know whether God will take my prayer to the Red Sea, where I can stand by and watch His glory, or to Gethsemane, where His glory is revealed in me. But I do know what I desire most: His Kingdom come, His will be done. As long as He is with me, He can take my prayers—and me—wherever He thinks best.