Exodus 17:8-13 (ESV)

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. [9] So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” [10] So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. [11] Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. [12] But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while 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. [13] And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

This well known account of Israel triumphing only when Moses’ hands are raised is a portrayal of calling out to God for victory. When God is appealed to, Israel prevails, and when He is not they do not. This is a clear demonstration of prayer. Prayer is not useless work. It is a crucial ingredient to the battle being fought. Without it there will be no victory.

But this is not just an example of praying. It is an example of leaders praying while their people are in the battle of life. It would be easy for Christian leaders to criticize their people for their lack of commitment, worldliness, smallness of faith. Sometimes it is true. But if it is right to see this event as a picture of prayer then it is also right to conclude that it is the leader who calls upon God while his people are in the trenches. How incumbent it is upon those of us who lead the people of God as pastors and elders, to arise early and pray for our people as they go into a world that is very hostile to Christian things.

The pastorate is hard work. There is much about it that is unknown to a great number of people. But those of us in ministry need to remember that our people are rubbing shoulders with ungodly people and circumstances every waking moment. Our job is to hold up our hands to God on their behalf. Of course the people should pray for themselves. But leaders have a responsibility to protect them and lead them and help them not to fall. All these things and more start on our knees.

Are you a church leader? An elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher, ministry leader? Have you prayed today for those under your care? Have you met with God and pleaded for your charges to stay faithful, fight well, press on? And do they know you do it? The Israelites prospered when Moses held up his hands to God for them. And they knew it. They could look to the top of the mountain and see that his hands were raised. Do your people know that you pray for them? Can they be confident that this is what you are doing? What a work it is to lead the people of God. How prone they are to fall. How overwhelmed they can be in the face of the temptations, opposition, and godlessness that they are called to face everyday. Elders, for God’s sake, pray for them. For their sakes, pray for them. See your calling as petitioning God on behalf of your people who this day are involved in a great struggle. They are too weak to win on their own. If they cannot look up and know that you are calling on God to help them they will falter and the enemy will prevail over them.

We in ministry are prone to blame the defeats of our people on them. There is much that may be true in this. But know that your people cannot win if you do not prevail with God on their behalf. It’s a heavy responsibility and it ought to shake leaders to the core. The next time I am quick to criticize my people for some spiritual defect perhaps I at least should ask myself how well I have been holding up my arms in prayer to God on their behalf. What a work. What a calling. And what a God