Do not think God has not heard when we have been able and alert in our prayer

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Psalm 69 has so much to teach me on prayer.

Save me, O God!
The water is up to my neck;
I am sinking in deep mud,
and there is no solid ground;
I am out in deep water,
and the waves are about to drown me.
I am worn out from calling for help,
and my throat is aching.
I have strained my eyes,
looking for your help.

Those who hate me for no reason
are more numerous than the hairs of my head.
My enemies tell lies against me;
they are strong and want to kill me.
They made me give back things I did not steal.
My sins, O God, are not hidden from you;
you know how foolish I have been. – Psalm 69:1-5 GNT

What an image of drowning – I am there with him. The imminence of death is there if I want it to be and I will only want it to be if I do not believe that God has heard my prayer. What is the cause of drowning – those who hate, the numbers of those who hate – and the lack of reason in doing so. Even so, while they may be out of line, I know my sins are real and they lay before God.

 

Don’t let me bring shame on those who trust in you,
    Sovereign Lord Almighty!
Don’t let me bring disgrace to those who worship you,
    O God of Israel!
It is for your sake that I have been insulted
    and that I am covered with shame.
I am like a stranger to my relatives,
    like a foreigner to my family.

My devotion to your Temple burns in me like a fire;
    the insults which are hurled at you fall on me.
I humble myself[b] by fasting,
    and people insult me;
I dress myself in clothes of mourning,
    and they laugh at me.
They talk about me in the streets,
    and drunkards make up songs about me. – Psalm 69:6-12 GNT

I too have prayed the prayer asking God not to bring shame on other followers of jesus because of what I am going through. My shame comes from being a follower of Jesus and even those who have watched me daily in my walk seem to have turned their back on me. Even so, I burn for my love for Jesus and I am constantly sincerely repentant for my sins. That just offers more fuel to the fire for the insults, for now are even more personal.

But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord;
    answer me, God, at a time you choose.
Answer me because of your great love,
    because you keep your promise to save.
Save me from sinking in the mud;
    keep me safe from my enemies,
    safe from the deep water.
Don’t let the flood come over me;
    don’t let me drown in the depths
    or sink into the grave.

Answer me, Lord, in the goodness of your constant love;
    in your great compassion turn to me!
Don’t hide yourself from your servant;
    I am in great trouble—answer me now!
Come to me and save me;
    rescue me from my enemies. – Psalm 69:13-18 GNT

I do the only thing left to do – I ask God to rescue me. I know the character of God is one where He keeps His promises and He has an amazing love for me. His compassion is turned towards me as He looks at me. It is a passionate prayer and if you noticed, the prayer is growing in confidence the longer it progresses – God will hear and answer because of who He is.

You know how I am insulted,
    how I am disgraced and dishonored;
    you see all my enemies.
Insults have broken my heart,
    and I am in despair.
I had hoped for sympathy, but there was none;
    for comfort, but I found none.
When I was hungry, they gave me poison;
    when I was thirsty, they offered me vinegar.

May their banquets cause their ruin;
    may their sacred feasts cause their downfall.
Strike them with blindness!
    Make their backs always weak!
Pour out your anger on them;
    let your indignation overtake them.
May their camps be left deserted;
    may no one be left alive in their tents.
They persecute those whom you have punished;
    they talk about the sufferings of those you have wounded.
Keep a record of all their sins;
    don’t let them have any part in your salvation.
May their names be erased from the book of the living;
    may they not be included in the list of your people. – Psalm 69:19-28 GNT

Notice how easy it is take it all back again – making it personal. I stop thinking about God and start to think about people again – and they offer me nothing, leaving me alone and friendless. Then comes the prayer of imprecation. They somehow creep into my life, if not verbally, definitely in my dreams. I pray that I may not be here long and come back to being the person God has called me to be for the time is short and the hour has come for me to rise up and continue to serve.

The end of all things is near. You must be self-controlled and alert, to be able to pray. – 1 Peter 4:7 GNT

If the end of all things is near – why am I hanging on to what will not last? I long for the day of His returning.

“Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon,” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.
—C. S. LEWIS, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

It brings me to a place of urgency and action. A place where I am sensible and self-controlled, level headed, not impulsive or easily swayed by emotion. I will not go off the deep end. I shall have clarity of mind and may my character and service make a difference. Most of all, I need to be able to pray. For some, at different places of their journey, prayer can be difficult. Yet when I am alert, and in the midst of suffering and hostility as Psalm 69 presented, a sound and alert prayer life is most important.

But after we have learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary for us or defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, that we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it remains for us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have learned to be in him. – John Calvin

 

 

The value of prayer

the value of prayer

It was interesting to read in Leviticus chapter six this morning and in particular, a new element was introduced – fire. In my research I could not believe how many commented on this passage and its significance was not lost to me. Let me share some of them with you, but first let me allow you to read this one verse in particular.

The fire must always be kept burning on the altar and never allowed to go out. – Leviticus 6:13 GNT 

“No more should our faith, love, zeal (that flame of God, as Solomon calls it, Song of Solomon 8:9), that should never go out; the waters should not quench it, nor the ashes cover it.” – John Trapp

F.B. Meyer observed that the perpetual fire was an emblem of:

· God’s love, because there was never and will never be a time when God does not love.

· The prayers of Jesus for His people, because He forever lives to pray for His people (Hebrews 7:25).

· The ministry of the Holy Spirit, because the fire first lit on the Day of Pentecost still burns among the people of God.

By this law we are taught to keep up in our minds a constant disposition to all acts of piety and devotion, an habitual affection to divine things, so as to be always ready to every good word and work. We must not only not quench the Spirit, but we must stir up the gift that is in us. Though we be not always sacrificing, yet we must keep the fire of holy love always burning; and thus we must pray always. – Matthew Henry

Charles Wesley brings several of these interpretations together in his hymn – O Thou Who Camest From Above

O thou who earnest from above
The pure celestial fire to impart
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart.

There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze
And trembling to its source return
In humble prayer and fervent praise

In considering what prayer may look like, I am encouraged when I read Psalm five.

Listen to my words, O Lord,
    and hear my sighs. – Psalm 5:1 GNT

It is not about keeping our eyes closed and speaking prayer continuously – it could be very much a simple or deep or exasperated sigh. It is about God listening and in this case hearing from my heart. I believe God can answer prayer even before I speak them.

In no means does this take place of the spoken prayer for we are taught of its importance.

However, when I do not know how to pray or the exact words to pray I know the Holy Spirit will help me pray.

His next statement matters.

Listen to my cry for help,
    my God and king!

I pray to you, O Lord – Psalm 5:2 GNT

When David uses the word “cry” I believe it is for the sense of urgency involved in the need.

You hear my voice in the morning;
at sunrise I offer my prayer[b]
    and wait for your answer. – Psalm 5:3 GNT

I am a morning person so I like the habit starting my day with prayer. Who knows what the day will be bringing? Who knows what decisions and temptations will be coming my way? What kind of leadership will I be called on to perform? I am feeble, helpless, sinful, prone to making mistakes, living in a world of temptation and surrounded by dangers I know nothing about. When people talk about fitness, I practice my spiritual fitness looking to God each morning for His guidance and protection.

How can I be expected to follow God if I do not have instructions for the day? It is my time to declare Him as Lord when I do. My time with Him in the morning becomes my “tithe” of the day. He knows my sincerity when I do.

 It is not unexpected to read the apostle Paul urging the Christians in Colossae to pray and to do so persistently.

Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. At the same time pray also for us, so that God will give us a good opportunity to preach his message about the secret of Christ. For that is why I am now in prison. Pray, then, that I may speak, as I should, in such a way as to make it clear. – Colossians 4:2-4 GNT

He adds two other elements that increase the value of prayer – “keep alert” and “giving thanks.” It is about being spiritual aware of what should be prayed about – to my needs and the needs of others. I love the idea of giving thanks because I know the temptation to fill my time of prayer with asks more than praise. The idea of keeping alert is something I practice before prayer – during prayer – after prayer – I need to be aware of God’s leading.

Paul also asks for prayers on his behalf – a bit unexpected. But as a man with passions there was no special spiritual elevation. He was tempted, capable of weakness and fatigue and faced the challenges that I face, that we all face, trying to do what is right.

However, I do love the specific prayer request he made – “Pray, then, that I may speak, as I should, in such a way as to make it clear.” He wanted good opportunities – he wanted open doors – he wanted success to have the gospel preached and ultimately he wanted to see changed hearts and lives. 

Everything in this passage highlights the value of prayer and how it relates to the gospel. If I ask God to help me, to guide and direct me will doors open for me in ministry?

He had been comparing Himself to a vine, His disciples to the branches in the vine. Some branches continued in the vine, that is, remained in living union with the vine, so that the sap or life of the vine constantly flowed into these branches. They had no independent life of their own. Everything in them was simply the outcome of the life of the vine flowing into them. Their buds, their leaves, their blossoms, their fruit, were really not theirs, but the buds, leaves, blossoms and fruit of the vine. Other branches were completely severed from the vine, or else the flow of the sap or life of the vine into them was in some way hindered. Now for us to abide in Christ is for us to bear the same relation to Him that the first sort of branches bear to the vine; that is to say, to abide in Christ is to renounce any independent life of our own, to give up trying to think our thoughts, or form our resolutions, or cultivate our feelings, and simply and constantly look to Christ to think His thoughts in us, to form His purposes in us, to feel His emotions and affections in us. It is to renounce all life independent of Christ, and constantly to look to Him for the inflow of His life into us, and the outworking of His life through us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, our prayers will obtain that which we seek from God. – Torrey