Summer Devotional Series
We have another lesson on prayer from the Psalms. It is similar to Psalm 142. It is the last of what the church has called for hundreds of years, the penitential Psalms. There are seven of those grouped together meaning you read them with a prominent theme of guilt and need.
You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. A. J. Gordon
David is again teaching us how to pray, how to believe, and how to respond when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. He bases his whole hope on the character of God and the covenant of God with his people. The lesson on prayer focuses on how to handle difficulties in life rightly.
There are various ways people respond to difficulties. Some get discouraged with life and withdraw. Some get angry at God and walk away from the faith. Some turn to their own solutions, or solutions from the world. Jesus warned in the Parable of the Soils that two of the four types of soils would not produce good fruit because of trials. The seed sown on rock soil received the word with joy, but when trouble arose they fell away. The seed sown among thorns representing the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things choke out the Word and it is unfruitful.
Two statements in the Psalm reveal the relationship between people and God. You are my God. . .I am Your servant.
We do not know the details of the circumstances in Psalm 143. David was in the middle of trouble and he desperately needed God’s help. Whatever you circumstance is, health, financial, family, a difficult relationship or the difficulty of sin, prayer will help. The Psalm has two halves divided by the notation “Selah” in verse 6.
vv1-6 present the problem to the Lord.
vv7-12 present the problem by repeatedly crying out to the Lord
Knowing and serving God do not exempt us from difficulties. David was a servant of God and described in Scripture as a man after God’s heart. Yet he was often pushed to the edge and at times despaired of life itself. He thoughts Saul would actually kill him. He told Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:3 There is hardly a step between me and death.
vv3-4 For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart with me is distressed.
These are words of distress that can apply to our life situations as well.
The Prosperity Gospel teaches that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for believers and that faith, coupled with positive speech will increase health and wealth. The emphasis is on personal empowerment, visualization, positive confession, and of course is in response to giving money to those who promote it.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Sincere and fervent prayer is how to respond to difficulties. This does not happen without effort. When trouble comes many turn away from the Lord. Instead, turn toward God.
v1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness.
v6 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.
v7 Answer me speedily, O Lord
v8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning
v9 Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies.
v12 In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul.
We will not pray as we should unless we understand our need.
Prayer should be in repentance.
v2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous.
In some Psalms, David appeals on the basis of his innocence. At other times he appeals on the basis of his guilt before God.
David was aware of his own sins and he appeals to God’s mercy.
Prayer should be in faith.
v8 For in you do I trust.
God can be trusted because he is righteous and faithful.
Prayer should be in surrender.
v10 Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God. Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.
Derek Kidner (p. 476) points out that David’s three requests for guidance (vv. 8-10) each has its own nuance. The first (“Teach me the way in which I should walk,” 8b) has an individual flavor, showing that each of us is uniquely placed and called. The second (“Teach me to do Your will,” 10a), “settles the priorities, making the goal not self-fulfillment but pleasing God and finishing His work.” The third (“Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground,” 10b), “speaks with the humility of one who knows his need of shepherding, not merely of having the right way pointed out to him.” The request for level ground “implies the admission that one is prone to stumble, not only to stray.”
Prayer in difficulty should have the goal of knowing God.
There is nothing wrong with praying in desperation for relief.
v7 Answer me speedily. . .
Yet the greater purpose is to know God and learn more about ourselves as a result. You can measure your spiritual condition, at least in part, by whether your prayers are saturated with a desire to grow in your relationship with the Lord.
v5 I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the works of your hands.
David recalled what God had done and meditated on it. We tend to be forgetful. We don’t always remember well what God has done in the Bible, in history, or in our own lives.
v6 I spread out my hands to You! My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.
Like a child reaches up for his parent.
v8 For I lift up my soul to You!
We often ask, Lord, why is this happening to me now?
A better way to think is Lord I want to know you better through this, and understand myself better.
v11 Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! The word revive is a word for breath. Earlier in the Psalm, David spoke of remembering the days of old and the greatness of God’s works. As he ends this Psalm, he prays for revival.
This does not mean that we always get a simple, satisfying answer to all of our questions about suffering. In a 2014 testimony about his experience with a debilitating disease, former Wheaton College Provost Stan Jones provided a helpful perspective on all the questions about our suffering that we find it difficult or even impossible to answer. He said:
Long ago, I read a book about suffering, and the author made a point that I have had to return to time and time again. He said most of our why questions about suffering are ultimately unanswerable. God does not seem to be in the business of answering the why questions, and most of our philosophical responses to the question of suffering amount to various forms of taking God off the hook for the problem of suffering. But this author pointed out that God doesn’t seem to be interested in getting off the hook. In fact, the answer of God in Jesus Christ to the problem of suffering is not to get off the hook at all, but rather to impale himself on the hook of human suffering with us in the very midst of our suffering.
When trouble comes and places a giant question mark over our existence, we should remember Jesus and the empathy of the Cross.