Our month of prayer continues. The prayer guide can be downloaded here: Harvest Prayer 8 -14 October2017
Graham returned triumphantly from the Great North Run today (finishing in 1hr 51 minutes for those who are interested). This week Graham continued the series on the eight prayer Psalms of David. You can listen again to the sermon here:
In order to read these prayers in such a way that they speak to both you and I in our time we must first note some features of their context.
These prayers are the prayers of one person. They present us with his thoughts, his hopes and beliefs and sometimes his human limitations. These are the prayers of a king. They are from the pre-New Covenant age.
An introduction to the Psalms
The book of Psalms can be seen as a collection of poems prayers and songs. So it is a collection of these that have been used and are intended for use.
The Psalms represent the faith that had matured over centuries and had reached the stage of development at the time the collection was put together during, or shortly after, the exile into Babylon, probably by temple priests. It became the prayer book during the exile, in the life of the rebuilt temple after the exile and in the synagogues up to the time of Jesus and beyond. It is still used in synagogues and in the church of Jesus the Messiah.
One way to use the Psalms is to pray aloud portions of them as words of our own prayers to God.
I was delighted to find out that while I was away Adam had preached a part 2 to my sermon on Psalm 139. I thought it was excellent.
Adam mentioned that in reading the Psalms we find expressions of raw emotion born out of their particular context.
Adam brought that great quote from John Calvin:
“I have been accustomed to call this Book, not inappropriately, an Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul, for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not represented as in a mirror.”
As we look at Psalm 140 we see again that the Psalms are very human. Quoting from Adam’s notes, “They contain incredible theology and celebration of God’s work in history, and all kinds of responses to it. In them we find some more gritty statements, which we might find hard to identify with today.”
What is your calling?
I was offered an opportunity to learn to fly a few years ago. I eventually said I would not pursue it as I “knew what I was for”.
By calling I do not mean just one thing but include the possibility that we will each have many over our lives and may have many at one time.
What were the callings on David’s life?
A King. A man of God. A worshipper.
David was a worshipper before he was a king. Or perhaps one qualification he had in order to be called into kingship was that he was already a worshipper.
As Samuel looked at the various sons of Jesse seeing which was the one chosen to be king ne noticed Eliab and thought he looked right until God spoke to Samuel.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
What did God see as he looked that the inner person of David? I think one thing he saw was a worshipper.
See the information about David’s harp playing.
1 Samuel 16:14-23
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’
17 So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’
18 One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.’
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, ‘Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.’ 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armour-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
I think this spirit troubling Saul was a spirit of repentance and reconciliation sent from God. But though the sound and experience of someone else’s worship eased his torment, Saul does not seem to have humbled himself before God and found real release.
Again, from Adam’s notes:
Psalm 139: A Model for Worship
What happens when we give praise to God? (not exhaustive)
We rehearse and celebrate God’s action in History. What God has done for us? – He “searched and know[s]”
We remind ourselves about God’s identity. Who is God? (Who is this God) – Ever Present “Where can I go”
(Often these are the same: “For you created my inmost being.”)
We commit ourselves to Him.
Resolve to follow. – we desire to take God’s holiness seriously.
We ask for His guidance.
We pray. – “Search Me… Test me…”
We express our emotion.
We love. – “I praise you because I am fearfully, wonderfully made.”
I get the impression that David was not just a worshipper but that he wanted others to join in with his worship of his/the creator God.
What is your calling? One of them is to be a worshipper.
Again, what was David’s calling? What did he think he was called to?
I see a courageous vulnerability revealed in David’s psalms. It must have taken courage to have been that open and honest, to do it so publicly, and to do it so permanently by committing it to writing!
I get the idea that David saw himself as a role model of what we now call discipleship. This role model is one that is transparently human as he parades his fears and frustrations, his rages and his brokenness.
Despite the rant in Psalm 140 we see him trusting God for his safety and the person of God as his answer.
Verse 1, “Rescue me, Lord…”
Verse 4, “Keep me safe, Lord…”
What is discipleship?
See Philippians 2:9-13
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Do everything without grumbling
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
I have heard is said that verses 12 and 13 describe something like a pair of scissors with only the two blades together being effective. One blade is what we do and the other is what God does in us.
Discipleship is the part that we do as we follow Jesus and seek to develop in holiness.
In my reading this week I came upon comment that I particularly like as it describes what holiness is. “Holiness is a human character conforming to the Divine.” By the “Divine” the writer means that which is of God, from God. proceeding from God.
If holiness of God is the otherness of the perfection of God, then this process of holiness in us is a wonder.
See Romans 12
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 The Disciple Praying
Would you be willing to publish the secret things that you pray about?
Would you want others to know what you are afraid of?
Is it wise for a ruler to be that open?
See Psalm 140 verses 6 to 7
6 I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God.’
Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
7 Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
I stayed the night at a friend’s house recently and near my bed was a sword. Long story! I knew the story behind it when I saw it but as I looked at it a thought occurred to me. I thought, “That has got to hurt?”
Really, I can not imagine what it is like to know that to be killed by a sword is likely or even possible. How does one brace oneself for that?!
David’s example is that in the midst of terrors, fears, dreads, insecurities, it is the Lord God we can call upon. And he did not even have the words of Jesus that we can take as encouragement.
See Luke 12:4-7
4 ‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
I suggest that lines of the prayer in verse 6 can be used this week:
I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God.’
Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
Why not write this prayer down and carry it with you for this week ahead? You could pull it out of pocket or bag during the week and bow before Jesus in this simple prayer of submission.