“Lord, we pray that you put a hedge of protection around this family.”
I’ve had something similar prayed over me before. And I really appreciate it. But I have a confession to make. The phrase “hedge of protection” makes me laugh. You see, I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. When I hear the word hedge I don’t think of a row of thorn bushes–I think of Sonic the Hedgehog. So what I hear when someone prays for a hedge of protection is a group of angry hedgehogs watching out for me like my own personal line of attack dogs.
That is one reason, to my knowledge, I’ve never once prayed a hedge of protection around someone. There is another reason.
Where does this hedge come from?
A hedge of protection has garnered for itself a hallowed place in the halls of Christianese. But I wonder how many people know the origin of this phrase. Similar language is only found in one place, Job 1:10, and here it comes from the mouth of the Accuser.
Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. (Job 1:10 ESV)
The Lord had graciously placed a hedge around Job to protect him from enemies. This was part of God’s blessing on Job’s life. And that is all well and good. In fact I don’t believe there is anything necessarily wrong with praying for a hedge of protection. There are times in my life when I pick up one of the Psalms and pray similarly. There are occasions when it seems as if enemies are all around and I need the Lord’s protection and provision. In times like this a hedge of protection would be quite nice.
The Job 42 Experience
Fast forward in the story of Job for just a moment and allow me a question. Go to the 42nd chapter. All of the suffering has already happened to Job and he’s been given counsel (mostly bad) from his friends. Job had desired an audience with God and he finally got it. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and left him stupefied. Here is what Job said in response:
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Don’t get tripped up on the “despise myself” . Just ask yourself, “Would I like to have a similar experience with the living God? Would I like to be able to say something similar to Job?” To modernize Job, he’s saying something like this:
“You know, I had read about God, I had heard preachers talk about God, I had heard stories about his greatness and his provision and his beauty and wonder and majesty and holiness and love, but now my eyes have seen him. And I’m going to just shut my mouth. I don’t need to have an audience with God and to state my case. I’m sorry for thinking that I had a case. The Lord is holy. I am not. I will repent in dust and ashes”.
We talk all the time about having a deeper relationship with God, about experiencing Him, about knowing Him more. We want what Job experienced in Job 42.
Now allow me to ask you another question. Would Job have known God in this way if he had still had a hedge of protection around him?
Listen, I’m all for praying that the Lord would protect people and heal people and bless people. But I’m also not God and I don’t know what people truly need. Maybe a hedge of protection is the very thing that is keeping a brother or sister from really seeing and savoring Jesus Christ. Maybe what is needed is the furnace of affliction to remove joy-robbing dross.
I don’t see much biblical basis for praying that a hedge of protection would be put around someone. I might pray something like Psalm 20:1 and end up doing about the same thing. But even there I believe the language is different. A hedge of protection sounds like shielding someone from all harm and all difficulties. And I want that for my kids and for my family. I don’t want harm to ever come upon them. But I also want them to know the beauty and rescue and sufficiency of Christ and that might not happen with a hedge of protection.
So I’ll pray, “Lord protect them” but as I pray that, I’m praying that the Lord would protect them as he puts them (and me) through the furnace of affliction. It’s the only way for us dross-filled sinners to be fit for an imperishable kingdom.
I want a hedge of protection for my family. But I want Jesus more. If I can’t have both I’ll take the latter.