Friday, October 11, 2013

Foxhole prayers

Soldier in a foxhole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 66:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "I will pay You my vows,
Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble."  Psalm 66:13,14


Have you ever prayed, God something like, If You help me out of this situation I'll ______ (go to Africa; never do this thing again; do whatever You ask; etc.)'? Then after the crisis passed, did you follow through with your promise?

The practice of making vows to God when in trouble is thousands of years old. My Bible dictionary defines Bible vows:
"A vow may be either to perform or abstain from an act in return for God's favour or as an expression of zeal or devotion towards God. It is no sin to vow or not to vow, but if made—presumably uttered—a vow is as sacredly binding as an oath. Therefore a vow should not be made hastily" - New Bible Dictionary p. 1313.

Bible characters certainly took vows seriously.
  • Israel's judge Jephthah vowed that whatever came out of his house to meet him after victory in battle he would sacrifice—and was shocked when that turned out to be his daughter (Judges 11:30,40).
  • Saul was ready to kill his own son when it was discovered Jonathan had eaten honey during battle after Saul had sworn the people to fast all day (1 Samuel 14:24-45).
  • Here the psalmist promises to pay the vow he spoke while in trouble. Does the need for such a statement imply that he may have considered not keeping his promise to God?

What troubles me about making vows is the undertone of manipulation—as if our potential action will convince God to come through for us. (Jesus alludes to the futility of our vow-making in Matthew 5:33-37).

Still, when our backs are against the wall and we're desperate, I would hazard most of us would not be above praying frantic foxhole prayers. Whether we follow through with the promises we make in them is a measure of how seriously we take God and our word to Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me not to use manipulation in my relationship with You. When I do make promises, help me to act with as much integrity toward You as I would if I had made those promises to a person. Amen.

MORE: A foxhole prayer story

Have you ever prayed a foxhole prayer?

Rick Hamlin ends his story about the day he was in a meeting and had a serious memory lapse with: "A foxhole moment is just when I want to be with my friends. Why wouldn't God want to be with me then?" Read all of Foxhole Faith: The Value Of Prayer When We Are Vulnerable (Huffington Post, February 2011).


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New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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