I learned a long time ago that it was helpful for me to write down my prayers to God, my Father, each day. This journal exercise keeps me focused on what I want to say to God without wondering in the “weeds” of whatever thoughts come to my unfocused mind. My attention span is short, very short, so I do this to stay focused on God and less on me and what I want. When I write the words down, it is almost as if I am shouting, “God, help me!”
So, I totally understand the thinking of the Psalmist in this passage today which is his prayer to God. He is anxiously asking, like me many times, for answers to his troubles, repentance for his soul with clarity for God’s will be done minus the confusion of this world’s thinking. We get it, don’t we? The writer prayed throughout this entire psalm, but in these verses, he concentrated on prayer and cried out to God day and night. From his experience, we receive some basic instructions about effective prayer.
We must seek God with our whole hearts and obey Him with our whole hearts. “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart” (John Bunyan).
In the Old Testament sanctuary, the golden altar of incense represented intercessory prayer (Ex. 30:1-10). The special incense was burned on the altar, and the fragrant smoke rising heavenward pictured prayer going up to the Lord. The devotion of the heart is what “ignites” our prayers and enables us to present our requests to the Lord. The phrase “and I will keep” may be translated “that I may keep.” The psalmist was not bargaining with God (“Answer my prayers and I will obey You”) but dedicating himself to God to obey Him no matter how He answered his prayers. “God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.” This is a prayer that asks for the Holy Spirit to bring clarity to what God wants. We know that what God wants for us is always best.
Pray without ceasing
Two important elements of effective, reverent prayer are involved here. The first is that we constantly cultivate an attitude of prayer and remain in communion with the Lord all day long and into the night. We consistently have him on “speaker” as if he were speaking to us on our mobile phones so that nothing comes between the Father and us!
The second element in effective prayer is the Word of God, for apart from God’s Word, we cannot know God’s will. Each verse in this passage mentions the Scriptures and the writer’s devotion to God’s Word. We must balance the Word and prayer in our devotional lives and ministry. The spiritual leaders in the early church gave themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). When we meditate on the Word, the Father speaks to us; and when we pray, we speak to the Father. We need both instruction and intercession if we are to be balanced children of God. We all seek “balance” in this life, right?
Pray as an act of love
This passage combines both love and law, for if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments. Too often we think of prayer as an emergency measure, rushing into God’s presence and crying for help. But what would you think of children who spoke to their parents only when they needed something? Prayer is more than asking; prayer is loving.
If we love the Word of God, we must also love the God of the Word and express that love to Him. To tell Him we love Him only because we want to receive something is to practice prayer on a juvenile level. When we share our love with the Lord, we receive new life from Him.
Pray with your eyes open
As he prayed, the psalmist saw his enemies drawing near, so he asked for God to draw near to help him. The familiar phrase “watch and pray” goes back to when Nehemiah was leading the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the gates. The enemy did not want the Holy City to be rebuilt, so they used fear, deceit, and every kind of ruse to hinder the work. What was Nehemiah’s defense? “Nevertheless, we made our prayer to our God, and because of them [the enemy] we set a watch against them day and night.”
Jesus (Matt. 26:41; Mark 13:33), Paul (Col. 4:2), and Peter (1 Peter 4:7) commanded God’s people to “watch and pray,” to be on guard and pray with intelligence and alertness. We are soldiers in a battle and we dare not go to sleep while on duty!
Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs
Part 19 – Psalm 119, The Message
145-152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
“God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
that you meant them to last forever.
TRUTH: Prayerfully ponder God’s promises as He restores the joy of His salvation in our hearts, minds and souls. God never changes, backs away or backs down. He never gives up on us! God is forever. God is the One and Only we stay in close communication with for all of life.
Proverb 8:34-35, The Message
WISDOM: “Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work. When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.”
Abba, Father in Heaven,
Thank you for bending low to hear our prayers to You. Hallowed be Your Name! May Your Kingdom come and reign in us and your glory seen all around us and give you praise! May Your Will be done in every detail of our lives here on earth as it is in heaven. Give us your daily manna, all we need to know, for today’s part of a life long journey with You. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who hurt or offend us. Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from all evil and evil’s schemes to distract us from you. Nothing is too hard for you. My hope and life is in You. I love you, Lord with all that is in me. To YOU be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.
In Jesus Name, Amen