1 Samuel 4:4–5: “So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook.”

February 9th, 2020 by Pastor Ed in devotional

Israel went to battle against the Philistines and lost, so they decided to bring the ark of the covenant to the battlefield in the belief that it would make the Lord give them victory. It was bad enough that they brought the ark but even worse, they brought the two sons of Eli, both of whom God had already given a pronouncement against. Relationship was being replaced with superstition as they tried to use the ark to exercise authority over God, rather than the other way around. Bringing the ark into battle wouldn’t guarantee victory anymore than a rabbit’s foot or horseshoe brings its owner good luck. Not only did the Philistines defeat them for a second time, but they also captured the ark and took it back to one of their cities.

The Lord will not allow His people’s spiritual condition to deteriorate down to a superstitious use of Himself. Spiritual power cannot be obtained by carrying a Bible or wearing a cross. Just like the ark, these religious things have value only if they move our hearts to draw closer in our relationship with God. No matter how many religious props a person may collect around them, God will not be manipulated. Most of us are guilty at one time or another of trying to manipulate God when we pray. Augustine said, “We are restless until we find our rest in God.” This is what God offers, rest for our souls. But often we have something different in mind, something more material. Sometimes even well meaning and sincere believers confuse faith and superstition, relying on prayer as some kind of magical chant. Prayer isn’t our opportunity to tell God what to do, but our privilege to lay our needs (and other peoples) before our loving and caring heavenly Father. The simple prayer of Bobby Richardson, committed Christian and second basemen for the New York Yankees during the 50s and 60s, serves to remind us of Who has the power when we pray:

“Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”