O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. [Psalm 61:1-2 (NLT)]
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. [Psalm 34:4-6 (NLT)]
“Stop, look, and listen!” When just children, that’s what we learned to do every time we crossed a street. Those words remain good advice today—and not just when crossing the street.
The Philistine army, hoping to capture King David, raided the valley of Rephaim. Before responding to the attack, David stopped and asked God what action he should take. He didn’t present his battle plan for God’s consideration nor did he take action before receiving God’s instruction. God told David to go to battle, assuring him of victory over the Philistines. When the battle went as God had promised, David wisely did not take credit for the victory. “God did it!” he exclaimed, giving credit where credit was due. The Philistines, however, returned and raided the valley again. Although David had previously defeated them, he didn’t assume a similar victory the second time. Again, the shepherd king paused, looked to God for his battle plan and listened to His advice. This time, God gave him a new strategy, telling David to circle his army around behind the Philistines and wait for a sound like marching feet in the trees before attacking. David followed God’s advice and was victorious once again.
David’s triumphs were because he stopped to pray, looked to God for direction, and listened to God’s advice before proceeding with God’s plan. David did all this at the first sign of trouble, prior to taking action, and not after he was surrounded by his enemies in the heat of battle.
While David stopped, looked and listened before proceeding, most of us don’t. We usually barge straight ahead and don’t consult God until we find ourselves in a tight spot. We tend to wait until we’re in crisis mode before stopping to look to God and listen to His advice. I know that many of my decisions have been made quickly, without much thought and definitely without enough prayer. Moreover, even when I stop and look to God in prayer, I’m not as inclined as David to listen to what God has to say or to accept His answer. When I’ve found myself in a predicament, it’s a sure bet that God wasn’t involved in my decision-making process. I failed to take the time to stop and look to God; most important, I failed to listen to and abide by His counsel.