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It is written:
1 Thessalonians 5:17-Pray without ceasing.
The Bible is filled with many wonderful examples of inspired prayers: prayers that are here for us to pray ourselves through the various difficulties and trials of life. In this series of studies, I would like to share with you some of my favorite prayers that I like to pray, and some of the great lessons that I have learned from these prayers. I will be using various Bible translations (as I do with everything in my personal studies and prayer life).
The first prayer is from Psalm 25.
Psalm 25:1-22 (ERV)-A song of David. LORD, I put my life in your hands. 2 I trust in you, my God, and I will not be disappointed. My enemies will not laugh at me. 3 No one who trusts in you will be disappointed. But disappointment will come to those who try to deceive others. They will get nothing. 4 LORD, help me learn your ways. Show me how you want me to live. 5 Guide me and teach me your truths. You are my God, my Savior. You are the one I have been waiting for. 6 Remember to be kind to me, LORD. Show me the tender love that you have always had. 7 Don’t remember the sinful things I did when I was young. Because you are good, LORD, remember me with your faithful love. 8 The LORD is good and does what is right. He shows sinners the right way to live. 9 He teaches his ways to humble people. He leads them with fairness. 10 The LORD is kind and true to those who obey what he said in his agreement. 11 LORD, I have done many wrong things. But I ask you to forgive them all to show your goodness. 12 When people choose to follow the LORD, he shows them the best way to live. 13 They will enjoy good things, and their children will get the land God promised. 14 The LORD tells his secrets to his followers. He teaches them about his agreement. 15 I always look to the LORD for help. Only he can free me from my troubles. 16 I am hurt and lonely. Turn to me, and show me mercy. 17 Free me from my troubles. Help me solve my problems. 18 Look at my trials and troubles. Forgive me for all the sins I have done. 19 Look at all the enemies I have. They hate me and want to hurt me. 20 Protect me! Save me from them! I come to you for protection, so don’t let me be disappointed. 21 You are good and do what is right. I trust you to protect me. 22 God, save the people of Israel from all their enemies.
One of the interesting things about this Psalm is the way it is divided up in the original language. When we look at this Psalm in Hebrew, it appears to be a type of “model prayer” that was designed to teach the Jewish people how to pray.
“This prayer psalm forms an incomplete alphabetical composition, like Pss. 9–10. It has no q line but two r lines; perhaps a word beginning with q originally opened v. 17, and many possibilities could be suggested. In vv. 1–2 and 5 I have followed LXX’s colon division to produce a b line and a w line. The closing line stands outside the alphabetical pattern but (because v. 5 covers both h and w) nicely brings the psalm to twenty-two verses, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The alphabetical form suggests that the psalm is designed to cover the bases of prayer from A to Z. This gives it a distinctive power and dynamic, different from those psalms that may seem more expressive and emotional, though it may thereby raise the question whether we too easily assume that other psalms reflect unprocessed experience. They too process experience through poetic form. Psalm 25 has links with wisdom material in the OT, notably its stress on the “way” and thus on the different “ways” a human life may take. These add to the likelihood that it was designed as a model prayer, one designed to teach people to pray, though this does not mean it could not also have been designed for use in corporate and individual worship, like other psalms.” (John Goldingay, Psalms : Volume 1 (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms): Psalms 1-41, 367-368 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic)
The Psalmist teaches us some very profound lessons about God (and about life, both generally and specifically).
The Goodness Of God
The Psalmist makes continual references to the goodness of God. He will trust in God with his life (25:1). The Hebrew phrase used here “lifting up the soul” is used throughout Psalms to show the choice of a person to fully trust something.
Psalm 24:4-He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 86:4-Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8-Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
Of all the things that a person could trust in, the Psalmist acknowledges to God that He alone is worthy of ultimate trust. How many times have I trusted in other when I should have trusted first and foremost in God? How often have I sought worldly counsel when I should have first gone to the Lord and His Word? How often do I choose to put my trust in politics, or the law of man? God alone is worthy of ultimate trust.
The Psalmist trusts in God and knows that he won’t be disappointed; his enemies will not laugh at him (25:2). God is his Savior, the One that the Psalmist has been waiting for (25:5). What beautiful language! Indeed, the word translated here as “wait” has some important lessons for us to learn. It is a word that means to bind oneself to another, as a rope is bound to something. I am reminded of another passage in the Word that relates to this:
Isaiah 30:18-Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
Now, the word used here for “wait” is different from the one in this prayer: yet they both contain some amazing lessons for us. The word used in Psalm 25 for “wait” is the Hebrew word qavah; and the word used in Isaiah 30:18 is chakah. One scholar tells us of these words:
“We should keep in mind that this is not the word for “wait” that Isaiah uses later in chapter 40, verse 31, in the familiar passage that says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” That word for “wait” is qavah (הוק), which is also the term used for making rope. It denotes a binding process—those who bind themselves to God will have their strength renewed. Chakah (הכח), however, refers to what we generally think of in regard to the word wait. It means “to wait,” “to be patient,” or “to hold back.” It is interesting that the first use of the word chakah (הכח) in this verse is in relation to God waiting so that He can be gracious. The Hebrew word translated “gracious” is chanan (ןנח), which carries the idea of compassion and favor…. There is one additional twist to this word chakah (הכח). It is in a piel imperfect form, which implies a waiting until the last minute or even the last possible second. Sometimes, it does seem that God operates in that manner in our lives…. Perhaps one clue as to why God waits until the eleventh hour to tell the executioner not to pull the switch lies in the last part of Isaiah 30: 18, where the word “wait” is used a second time. This time, it is we who are doing the waiting, not God. We are supposed to be blessed when we wait. I was surprised to find that the word translated “blessed” here is not barak (ךרב), as I had assumed. It is ’ashar (רשׁא), which doesn’t just mean happiness but rather “moving in the direction of peace and happiness.” The word for “wait,” chakah (הכח), is in a qal participle form, giving the idea of a present tense. Hence, we are patiently, contentedly waiting for Him to act and to show us His favor. The roof may be about to collapse, the floor may be about to give way, but we just sit patiently, knowing that God will come through. How can we sit by joyfully and wait contentedly? Because we know that He will have mercy and compassion on us, and that He is a God of justice.” (Chaim Bentorah, Hebrew Word Study: Revealing the Heart of God, 2010-2037 (Kindle Edition); New Kensington, PA; Whitaker House)
The Psalmist is going to bind himself to God and wait patiently and expectantly for Him. He is the God that is good!
The Graciousness Of God
The Psalmist prays to God on behalf of his sins and shortcomings. He is surpassingly frank about his failures. He asks forgiveness for the sins he committed when he was young (25:7), and freely acknowledges that he has done many wrong things (25:11). As he prays to God for guidance in his difficult trials, he asks God to forgive him for all the sins that he has done (25:18). David, of course, was not stranger to sin and personal failure (2 Samuel 11-12). Indeed, the words that the Old Testament uses to refer to sin teach us so much about the graciousness of God:
“It has been said that there are three classes, or kinds, of sin in the Hebrew Old Testament. (1) The lightest infractions are those that are called chet, chata, chatta’ah, or chattath, a fault, a shortcoming, a misstep, to sin, err, miss the mark. (2) Of a more serious nature are the sins described by ‘avon, ‘avah, or ‘aven, a breaking of a commandment, iniquity. (3) The most serious sins are those called pesha’ (transgression) and resha’ (wickedness). There is the idea of rebellion involved in pesha’, and of what has become a habit or state in resha’. Psalm 106:6 mentions all three words, “We have sinned (chata) like our fathers, we have committed iniquity (avah), we have behaved wickedly (resha’).” A similar threefold list is found in Exodus 34:7, “Who forgives iniquity (‘avon), transgression (pesha’), and sin (chatta’ah).” (Gareth Reese, 437 (Nook Edition); Moberly, Missouri; Scripture Exposition Books LLC)
One of the things that I love about this Psalm is the brutal honesty that the Psalmist acknowledges in dealing with his sin. Sin has always been present in the people of God, and part of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the follower of Christ is to purify and perfect him. Before that can happen, there must frank acknowledge before God of personal failures and defects.
1 John 1:8-9-If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is a constant theme throughout the Psalms:
Psalm 19:13-Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Psalm 32:5-I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 38:3-There is no soundness in my flesh Because of Your anger, Nor any health in my bones Because of my sin.
Psalm 38:18-For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.
Psalm 40:12-For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me.
Psalm 51:9-Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
Psalm 69:5-O God, You know my foolishness; And my sins are not hidden from You.
Psalm 79:9-Help us, O God of our salvation, For the glory of Your name; And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, For Your name’s sake!
Psalm 103:10-He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 130:3-4-If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Isn’t it interesting to notice that many of the long catalogues of sin in the New Testament Epistles are written to baptized believers who need to repent of these sins in their lives (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-6; Colossians 3:5-8)? I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting that my brothers and sisters in the Lord in the first century were continuing to struggle with sin in their lives after their conversion. It also gives me hope that the God in Whom I delight is still working in me, just as He is all His people.
The Guidance Of God
This Psalm emphasizes the continuing need for guidance. The Psalmist freely acknowledges that he is needing God to teach him His ways, and to teach how God wants him to live (25:4). Notice that he is wanting to live the way that GOD wants him to live. How different is that from our world today where everyone wants to live however THEY want to live?
Judges 17:6-In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25-In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Isaiah 53:6-All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The Psalmist wants God to show him the right way to live (25:8). He will teach His ways to humble people, and He will lead them with fairness (25:9). Indeed, when people choose to follow the LORD, He will show them the best way to live (25:12). Following the LORD will bring blessings from God (25:13). The Psalmist freely acknowledges that he is hurt and lonely, and that he needs God’s help to solve free him from his troubles and help him solve his problems (25:16-17). He needs God’s help dealing with all his enemies and his continual struggles with sin (Psalm 25:18-22).
When I read this prayer, it reminds me of something which is easy to forget and neglect: following God is the way that leads to the ultimate fulfillment and joy in life. This seems contradictory when we consider that God promises following Him will cause problems in this life (Matthew 10:28; Luke 9:23; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:16), yet the contradiction disappears when we realize that happiness is not found in the circumstances of our lives but in fellowship with God and His purpose.
Psalm 16:11-You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Paul understood this:
Philippians 3:8-Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
I think it is here that the hideousness of sin becomes very clear. Sin ruins what is God’s ultimate purpose for the joy of His Creation. This is shown in the Hebrew word shalom (peace):
“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be…God is, after all, not arbitrarily offended. God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be…. We may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (e.g., by disease), morally, spiritually, or otherwise.” (Sean McDowell and Johnathan Morrow, Is God Just A Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised By The New Atheists, 3268-32277 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Digital Editions)
Sin is so terrible because it spoils the good plan that God has. Don’t we find that at the heart of all sin is the belief that God’s way isn’t the best way? Is that not the crux of idolatry?
The Psalmist clearly cries out to God to lead him and to guide him. Although this includes knowing the Word of God in the Bible, it goes beyond this. It is a plea for the Lord to watch over him every day of his life, and to guide him in the ways that he needs to walk. It is a plea for God to never leave his side, but to walk with him through the valleys and on the mountaintops. It is a humble request for the God Who shares His secrets with His followers (25:14) to never leave him or forsake him.
The Governance Of God
Finally, this Psalm teaches us about the governance of God. The Lord is really working in the world! He is here when we face our enemies, and when we deal with our problems. We might think that our problems are insignificant to the God Who made the universe and Who sustains it; but He is here with us, in the midst of our struggles (25:15-18)! Indeed, as the Psalmist later declares:
Psalm 40:1-I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry.
God is the One Who “inclines” to us. He stoops down to hear us, He lowers Himself to our level.
1 Peter 3:10-12-For “HE WHO WOULD LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, LET HIM REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL, AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. 11 LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. 12 FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE ON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYERS; BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
How thankful are we that God draws near to us? Is that not one of the great messages of the Incarnation (God dwelling with man)?
Matthew 1:23-“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Our enemies try and destroy us, but we can wait for the Lord to deal with them as He sees fit. We pray for them to have time and opportunity to be saved (Psalm 83:16; Matthew 5:44-45), and yet we trust in the Lord to protect and deliver us (Psalm 37:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
What a marvelous Psalm and prayer this is for God’s people!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.