I want to briefly look at three areas of prayer through the book of Joshua.
First, a couple of reminders. In Joshua 1 God made it very clear that He expected Joshua to follow His word very closely. There is a great promise attached to the obedience of that command,… it’s success!
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Josh 1:6-9 (NASB)
Joshua did that at first, he kept in contact and was obedient to God’s word. The following verses are places where scripture records God talking to Joshua 1:1, 2:7, 4:1, 4:15, 5:2, 6:2. It would seem that God was granting victories to Joshua and the nation, but it was always accompanied by instruction. What these meetings were like, I am uncertain. I believe God was trying to get Joshua to A) learn his voice and B) learn to pray, to seek His will, as he moved forward.
In chapter 7 we have the battle of Ai. The battle there was a tragic defeat, Israel, flush with victory from routing Jericho, perhaps went up to Ai in pride, trusting in themselves rather than their God for victory. The glaring thing in my opinion, is that there is no recorded prayer, no instruction from God before this battle. Perhaps this was test to see if Joshua had learned to call on, wait on God. He failed, and 36 men were slaughtered and the hearts of the people were discouraged. (Joshua 7:5)
Joshua’s First Prayer
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”Josh 7:6-9 (NASB)
Joshua’s prayer is a common one, men get their butts kicked and God is to blame. He’s saying God, this is your fault,.. why did you do this? Our reputation, and Yours, is ruined. What are You gonna do about it? Joshua’s prayer shows us that Joshua thought God had failed them. God’s response will show Joshua, that indeed he was the one who had failed both God and the nation. God’s response in the following verses will point out the sin of Achan. This episode is referred to by many as “sin in the camp.” Achan and his family had taken spoils from Jericho that were banned. God’s word had forbidden personal profiting from this battle and Achan had been disobedient.
In essence, God says, no Joshua, your prayer is wrong. I am not to blame, but you are. You cost Israel this great defeat, because you did not seek my direction before you moved on Ai. No doubt if Joshua would have asked of the Lord, He would have told him to take care of the “sin in the camp” first. Those 36 valiant warriors would be alive still.
How many times do we move forward with big decisions without any clear direction from God?
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” -Psalms 37:7 (NASB)