Monday, September 24, 2012

PSALM 5 : "PLEASE HEAR MY PRAYER , LORD!"



TEXT:  Psalm 5
TITLE:  "PLEASE HEAR  MY PRAYER , LORD!"

This  Psalm, like so many other  Psalms,    is a  prayer  of David. And like so many  of these personal prayers of David  they were collected and  compiled into  this “hymnbook of Israel“ , also  known as “the Psalms”.  This happened under the direction and inspiration  of  the Holy Spirit, so that generations to come would  find heavenly  wisdom, counsel and  comfort  in these words. Jesus regarded   the Psalms as  inspired  (Lk.  24:44), and in the NT we are  encouraged  to  sing  Psalms , Hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God.” (Col 3:16 )
A reason why the Psalms are so very popular  is  that  many  people  find  their own experiences reflected in them.
Many of these Psalms   were   sung, directed  by a choirmaster, and in this case, also  accompanied by flutes. I remind you again that singing the Word is one of the most wonderful tools  for our collective worship of God. It  is also a  great aid to  scripture memorization.

So,  what is this Psalm all about ?

1.      It is a Prayer.
 
“Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.” (vv. 1 -2).

Firstly,   this  Psalm   teaches us  something about  the biblical forms in which prayer may be expressed. David speaks   here of:
(i)                 my  words
(ii)               my groaning 
(iii)             my cry.

These are all  forms of prayer. Sometimes prayer is words - an outpouring of our souls  in  words, such as we find here . At  other times  prayer is simply  wordless  groaning (Ex 6:5; Rom 8:26)  or crying  (see examples  in Ex 3:7,9;8:12; 14:10;15:25; 17:4 etc). Hannah in 1 Samuel  1 did both.  She prayed  to the Lord in words  (1 Sam 1:10,11)  and then she prayed in her heart  with groans  (1 Sam 1:12-13).  In both forms she  poured out her  soul before the Lord (1 Sam.  1:15)

Secondly,  note that  David’s prayer  is extremely  forceful and demanding and  bold,  and yet  not arrogant! This is a prayer of holy boldness.  Such prayer is based upon  a good knowledge of  the character  of God and  of the promises  of His Word. David knows the God to whom he prays: “my King and my God, for to you do I pray“.

Thirdly, note  the timing of this prayer:  V.3  O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice  for you (lit. “ I arrange or set in order “ – and the object must be  inferred from the context. Hence  another translation: “I direct my prayer to you”) … and watch”. He comes to His King and God  with his sacrifice of prayer  in the morning.  According to  C.H.  Spurgeon , “an hour in the morning is worth two in the evening[1].  Prayer  takes concentration and alertness . The morning is best for this .

Fourthly,  observe  that we find here a  form of prayer which is rarely used  and heard in our churches: prayer  of  holy confidence, of certain  persuasion  and therefore  of strong argumentation.  
In this respect I want to quote  something that C.H. Spurgeon had said in a sermon (entitled “Order and Argument in Prayer” - preached on the Lord’s Day, July 5th  1866 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle): 
The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down where I have listened to the brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third and then for a fourth and a fifth until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly [2].
We hardly hear  passionate  prayer like this in  our churches,  and I remind you that this  form of prayer is one that we should desire to see among us!  This is  an uncommon  boldness in prayer  which I ask  that God might restore it to us in these days! I know  from the testimony of Scripture that God  is pleased to answer  strong, believing  and urgent prayer.

So , why  is  this kind of prayer so scarce among Evangelical Christians  in our day ?
(i)           Because we think that  it  sounds too much like the modern  name it and claim it’  brand of Christianity,  by which  healings  and prosperity are   demanded  from heaven. We are intensely suspicious  of anything that is loud and demanding.  However, we must be careful not to engage in knee jerk reactions, and thus to lose a biblical boldness in prayer. There is  a holy boldness  with which we may come  to God ( see James  5:13-18)  and by which we may expect great things from God.
  
(ii)     Because we    have little intimate acquaintance with God and His Word (the promises of God). Therefore we lack confidence in  speaking to God. We are not sure what to say , or what to ask.   We need the confidence expressed in 1 John  5:14. This confidence is well  expressed  in  what follows  in Psalm  5:4 etc.

2.        It is a Prayer undergirded by  Theological  Convictions.

Why did  David begin with this urgent plea  in the first 3 verses?  Because his life was always threatened by enemies without and within. If it was not  an  external  threat from the enemies of Israel, it was a threat  from  within i.e.  those that hated him from the house of Saul, and sadly, even members of his  own family. (e.g.  Absalom). There is nothing that strengthens our prayer life as much  as needing to depend upon God for survival.  So,  David’s theology of prayer was formed  in two ways : 
(i)                 Through his objective  knowledge of the Word of God,
(ii)               and  through the subjective experience  of the truth of God’s Word.

In prayer  David, like you and I, always wrestled with these twin realities:
(i)                 wickedness (evil)
(ii)               righteousness imputed to the believer by God

And concerning these,   David’s theology is clearly expressed in  prayer:

Concerning the wicked (evil)  David  reminds himself  in prayer :  For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies;  the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (vv.  4-6).    He saw them as people unable to stand in the presence of God. His was a holy presence, a just presence, a sin-hating presence, a fearful presence, and that is how David looked on them. Furthermore , concerning the wicked, David has this to say (v.  9) : “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction;  their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.
He reminds himself of the fact  that  the wicked possess no real  truth (true truth); their  destiny is self- destructive; their speech  deceptive  and lying. Before we admire the world in which we live  and which we  love so often more than the  God who made us, let us remind ourselves of:
(i)                 What God thinks of this world ( vv.4-6)
(ii)              What the  reality and destiny  of such people is. The most  difficult aspect of David’s prayer concerning the wicked  is v. 10: Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.”   This is called “imprecatory prayer[3]. Imprecatory prayers   are prayers   that curse  the enemies of God  in no uncertain terms. This is not as a result of  David feeling  threatened  or assaulted  himself ; He  is praying this because  he is zealous  for his  God. These  rebellious people  are  continually insulting   the God  who made them.  Such  people have ultimately no one    left to appeal for them, because they  have insulted  the  Only One who  can save them. Him they have rejected. They ultimately get what they desire and deserve.

Concerning  the righteous,  David was encouraged  by the  love He had  received from God: (vv.  7 -  8a)  But I, through the  abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”  David knew God’s  steadfast (covenantal) love“ ; he knew the  fear of the Lord”; He knew  the “righteousness  of God   (imputed to him)  that would  cause him to triumph  over His enemy. The righteousness of Christ  imputed to  the believer  drives out the fear  and intimidation of  the world of enemies  within and without  (the world , the flesh and the devil).

In this regard the house of God  (regular public worship) had a major role to play in David’s life. (v.7b): “…I will enter your house, I will bow down toward your  holy temple in the fear of you” .

The  result of a heart set free is  joy  (vv. 11,12):  But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,  and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD;  you cover him with favour as with a shield.” When Martin Luther was summoned to the papal court  at  Worms   in Germany,  one of the cardinals mocked him. “ Where would  you find  shelter when all the world was gathered against  you , if  your   patron, the Frederik , Elector of Saxony, should desert  you ?”  Luther said, “I’ll be safe under the shield of heaven.” And so we will be, for greater is He that protects us than all the forces that oppose us. 

IN SUMMARY

This is prayer. This is the theology of David’s prayer. And it is rooted in David’s practical experience   of God’s steadfast love.  It is not  an unsure “I wonder  if God…”.  David knows   Him to whom  he directs His prayer. He knows  God’s views  on  the wicked and the righteous.
And therefore verses  1-3,   the introductory  bold prayer  which I have described to you, is  based on theological certainties.

May  we learn to pray like this!
To that end  we must make it our  goal  to  get to know God  theologically and  experientially. That will certainly embolden   and strengthen our prayer life. Amen .


[1] C.H. Spurgeon : Treasures of David , p. 46
[2] A sermon  on Job 23:3,4 , entitled  “Order and Argument in Prayer “
[3] See my exposition on Psalm 69 : Psalms that curse

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