“We must spend much time in prayer,” argued R. A. Torrey in How to Pray. “We must give ourselves to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer . . . I have asked the Father whatever else He may make me, to make me at all events an intercessor, to make me a man who knows how to pray, and who spends much time in prayer.”
Moses is known throughout Scripture as a powerful man of prayer (Jer. 15:1). During the golden calf incident, God righteously condemned the Israelites and proposed to end them, turning Moses into a great nation instead (Deut. 9:14). We don’t know if that offer tempted Moses, but he interceded for Israel based on the patriarchal covenant and God’s reputation and glory (see Ex. 32:9–14; Num. 14:13–19). God granted Moses’ prayer and relented.
After the idolatry had been halted, Moses returned to Sinai and asked God to forgive the people or “blot me out of the book you have written” (Ex. 32:30–32). Moses’ heart for intercession was clear: he fell with his face on the ground, indicating extreme humility, the length of time—40 days and 40 nights—and his fasting (Deut. 9:18–20). He was passionately grieved because of all the sin the people had committed, and he “feared the anger and wrath of the LORD.” He also interceded for Aaron, a detail not mentioned in the original story.
When he revisited this episode in Deuteronomy, Moses didn’t sugarcoat the memory. He said bluntly that during his leadership one of the nation’s main qualities had been rebelliousness (vv. 7, 24). He wasn’t trying to send them on a guilt trip. Rather, this was intended as an instructive reminder to help the people be more spiritually vigilant.
>> Scripture pictures Moses’ intercession as “standing in the breach” or gap (Ps. 106:23). For whom do you need to stand in the gap today? One thing we can learn from the life of Moses is how to be a man or woman of prayer.