Praying in Desperation

Judges 20:1-48

Judges 20:18 They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, “Who is to go first to fight for us against the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered, “Judah will be first…” 23 They went up, wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of Him: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered: “Fight against them…” 26-28 The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.  27 Then the Israelites inquired of the LORD. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there,  28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop?” The LORD answered: “Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow.”


God desires you to become desperate in your search for Him. He wants you to long for Him as you long for a drink of water on a hot summer day or shelter during a severe storm. Our problem is that we are not naturally desperate for God. Most of us like a nice sprinkling of God and spirituality in our lives. We want just enough of the Creator to be confident in Him but not enough to alter our lives.

In Judges 20, the LORD draws His people to a place of desperation. They come to Him secure in their own strength and ability, and the LORD is forced to humble and shake them so they can call on Him as a child longing for a parent’s comfort when the lightning flashes without warning and the thunder shakes the walls. This story arrives on the scene early in the time period of the Judges before the births of Gideon or Samson. The people of Israel had just settled in the Promised Land as a conquering army. They subdued their adversaries and eliminated king after king. If I was in that first or second generation of settlers I would have been riding high in our victories.

In their self-assurance, they allowed sin to creep into community. They allowed pride to spread among God’s people. A heinous sexual and violent sin occurs at the beginning of Judges 20 by the hands of the Benjaminites. The rest of Israel was so shocked that they formed a massive 400,000 man army to seek justice against the tribe of Benjamin. The Benjaminite leaders refused to submit to the judgment of the nation and responded with war.


Three times of prayer in verses 18-28 show the importance of seeking God with a desperate heart.

The first prayer in vs. 18 is short sweet and right to the point. They needed justice, so who should go and get it. Nothing but business from the people of Israel. No sorrow over the situation. No heart of desperate need for God.

The Second prayer in vs. 23 is longer. Well the prayer is basically the same, but before the prayer there is a time of weeping. The children of Israel weep as they had been defeated in their first battle with Benjamin. They weep but the LORD sends them out a second time for what will be a second failure.

The third prayer passage is the longest. After losing two battles to Benjamin, they now weep and fast before the Lord. Fasting along with sitting before the LORD pictures a prolonged period of prayer. They offer burnt sacrifices which according to the Law accompany repentance of sin. They offer fellowship offerings which show their longing to be at peace with God.


Finally, the LORD has brought them to the place they need to be. The place of desperation. The place where we do more than say, “Lord I am sorry I made a cruel comment to my spouse. Please forgive me for my gossip this past Sunday. Cleanse me from the lust in my heart.” In desperation, our confession becomes more than words that were spoken but they become a heartfelt repentance of our past with a passion to walk in godliness tomorrow.

We live in an age when our churches are for more likely to be influenced by the world as opposed to seeing our churches change the world for the glory of God. We must repent of our willingness to follow idolatrous practices and bow before the whims of the godless. People are desperate for political rights, environmental protections, and economic success. It is time for the church to get desperate for holiness. Our desperation for righteousness is seen in the content of our prayers.