“Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (RSV).
As one can guess, the title of this reflection is inspired by a “principle” associated with certain sports, especially soccer. One piece of advice commonly given to soccer players is: Play to the whistle. Play to the whistle means: keep to your game plan, keep playing, do not be distracted, keep playing until the referee blows the whistle. You also hear: Game is not over until the final whistle. Discipline and perseverance are the core values here.
Similar principles operate in the spiritual life of a Christian. This is especially true when it comes to prayer. Prayer, for the Christian, is not a one time or intermittent activity. It is a way of life. There is not a good or bad time to pray. It is good to pray, always and everywhere. This requires an attitude of trust in God, perseverance, and discipline. Various conditions of life can adversely affect the life of prayer to the point where we grow weary in prayer. At this point it is also easy to give up prayer altogether. But Christians have a lot to learn from the story of Israel’s encounter with Amelek in the desert.
The Amalekites were the first people to stand between the Israelites and the Promised Land. Moses realized that there was a “spiritual” dimension to the battle against the Amalekites. Accompanied by aids, he went up to the mountain where he interceded for Joshua and the Israelites (Exod 17:8-16). Soon it became clear that there was a connection between Moses’ prayer and the outcome of the battle: “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun (Exod 17:11-12). When Moses became weary he did not give up. He found support to persevere which led to eventual victory for the Israelites. He prayed until the final whistle. Weary from – possibly – hours of prayer, he could have rested. Yet he remained in prayer. The result was victory for the Israelites.
On our journey to heaven we have to engage in battles of all kinds, not necessarily like the Israelites. If we are to be successful, it is crucial to pray until the whistle. We cannot allow ourselves to grow weary on the battle field. No matter the immediate outcome of our prayer, it is important to keep praying till God tells us to stop. Satan takes advantage of our human weakness and limitation to lure us to despair. When our prayers do not seem to even move a needle, we are often tempted to lower our hands in prayer or give up praying altogether. But the truth is that whenever we pray, something good happens, even if unknown to us. Keep praying. Your prayer is not in vain. It is working.
It is important to realize that, like the Israelites, a number of things can stand between us and the Promised Land. Each day we must battle against those forces that impede our progress. No matter the circumstances, Holy Scripture teaches us to persevere in prayer. The battle is won from above. Pray until the final whistle. You cannot grow weary in battle (in prayer). Spiritually, it is risky to grow weary in prayer. If you feel weak, seek support. You are a child of God. You do not give up. Prayer is your weapon. Use it, in season and out of season. On the wings of prayer, rise to the mountain of God each day. Like the Psalmist, you want to say: “I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 121:1-2).
May the Lord help you to pray without growing weary (cf. Luke 18:1-8). May the Lord give strength to your arms. May the Lord grant you victory in your daily battles. And finally, may you discover the power of perseverance in prayer. Amen.
Invitation to pray:
Dear Father, have mercy on me. I plead the precious blood of Jesus, your Son. Strengthen me in prayer. You are my victory in the battle of life. Help me to pray to the end. May I see your glory, now and forever. Amen.