Humans can sometimes fool them-selves in believing that they can control God. Israel knew better. In his book The Divine Commodity, author Skye Jethani observes, “Rather than a religion of superstition or divination, attempting to control and manipulate God, the Hebrew Scriptures called them to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’”
Israel’s attempt to defeat the Philistines by carrying the ark of the covenant into battle was not an act of faith. It was a desperate attempt to force God to do what they wanted (v. 4). Their behavior was more pagan than believing. For one thing, it showed that they misunderstood the nature of the ark. The ark symbolized God’s presence but it was not a container for God. By carrying the ark into battle, Israel treated the ark like a talisman or even worse like an idol (v. 7). Their behavior also showed a callous disregard for God’s will. The elders asked the right question in verse 3, but their actions proved that they were not interested in the answer. They only wanted God to do what they had decided in advance that He should do. The results were devastating: “The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (vv. 10–11).
In His message to Samuel, the Lord had already revealed the answer to the elders’ question. Why had defeat come to Israel at the hands of the Philistines? Because the Lord had determined “to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle” (1 Sam. 3:11).
>> Jesus warned His disciples not to pray like the pagans who “think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt. 6:7). You can’t manipulate God. Ask what you want, but trust the Father’s answer (Matt. 6:8).
Are you willing to trust the Father’s answer to your prayer? Ask Him to increase your faith, grow your desire for the truth of His Word, and make you a more devoted prayer warrior.