When Not to Pray
Q. The Scriptures say that we should be praying continually. But might there ever be a time when we are supposed not to pray?
A. After the mighty victory at Jericho, it was abundantly clear that God was fighting for His people as they entered the land of Canaan. God had promised Joshua: "No-one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life" (Josh.1:5), so nothing could stop them now. Except one thing -- sin in the camp. After a humiliating defeat at Ai, "Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down to the ground before the ark of Yahweh" and began to complain to the Lord about how He had let them down (Josh.7:6-9).
Now, normally prayer is a good thing, especially in such times of great need as this. Yet God rebuked Joshua for praying! There is a time to pray, and a time not to pray. Joshua should have remembered that God's promise had a condition: "Do not let this Book of the Law (Torah) depart from your mouth... that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Josh.1:8). Their lack of success at Ai could, therefore, only have resulted from their disobedience. Joshua, as leader, should have realised this and should have proceeded to punish those responsible. Instead, here he was grovelling and complaining with his face on the ground.
As soon as Joshua had done what he should have done in the first place, and purged the guilty ones from the company, then God gave them a great victory over those who had once defeated them. After the triumph over Ai, Joshua gathered all the people again, and read to them "all the words of the Law (Torah)" (Josh.8:34). We have no right to pray if we are harbouring known sin. Even if there is no known sin, unanswered prayer is at least a cause for careful self-examination.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
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