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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Psalm 140 - Reality in Prayer

David was in difficult circumstances as he wrote the psalm. His response was to pray and he was guided by the Spirit to record the prayer for our benefit.

The first feature of his prayer to note is its reality. There is a big difference between praying vaguely for protection when nothing untoward is happening and praying desperately for protection when danger is very real. The latter type of situation usually brings great reality and clarity to our prayers. We can extend this principle of the necessity of reality to every aspect of prayer. 

A second feature to note is that David remembered his relationship with God as he prayed. In verse 6, David turns to the Lord and says, ‘You are my God.’ What does it mean to be in this relationship? In the relationship we have with God it is obvious that there is great inequality – he is far greater than we are in every way. Yet the Lord never uses our weakness as a reason for preventing the relationship from developing. If we are disloyal and pursue sinful things, then he will deal with us as those who are misusing his grace. But if we are depending upon him for his help, he will provide it. 

The relationship is a family one in which his people are his children. And the relationship is a gracious one. It can never be annulled or broken. This is surprising because, although God never breaks his part of the arrangement, his people often do what is forbidden and sin against him. Yet he has promised that when they do he will restore them, sometimes through a process of trials sent as chastisement, and they continue with the relationship. David himself experienced such restoration from God.

There are three important details to note from the way David speaks to his God in this psalm. The first is his plea for mercy. Such a plea reminds us of the greatness of God, because we only implore mercy from such a person. But it also reminds us of the grace of God because only such a person will be merciful. The plea for mercy further reveals that David recognised that any deliverance he would receive would be undeserved.

The second detail concerning David and his petitions is the use he makes of his memory. He reminds the Lord of past deliverances in verse 7: ‘O Lord, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.’  It is very important to use our memories when we pray because we will find encouragements from what the Lord has done in the past.

The third feature of David's prayer here is that he used several reasoned arguments as he prayed. One argument is his own helplessness against the variety and number of the attacks of his opponents (vv. 1-5). The fact of the matter is, if God does not come to his aid the psalmist will be defeated. But he knows that Lord does not want his people to be defeated, therefore he uses this knowledge as an effective argument in prayer.

Another argument concerns the Lord’s providence. What would happen if the Lord did not prevent the aims of the wicked? They would be exalted! (v. 8). David knows that the Lord would not approve of what they would do in such a situation. It would not only be David who would be harmed, but the Lord’s cause in general. So the psalmist used that possibility as an argument for God to hear his prayer for protection.

A third argument is based on his knowledge of the character of God (v. 10). It is inconceivable that God will act inconsistently with who he is. God repeatedly acts as he should and never acts in another manner. This reality should cause great confidence in the heart of a praying person and he can use it as an argument in prayer. The Lord’s character told his servant what to expect in answer to his prayers.

A fourth argument is connected to the future. If David’s prayer was answered, then the righteous in the land would give thanks to God (v. 13), probably when they met at one of the annual feasts in Jerusalem. They would hear about his deliverance and join together in praising God. This is also a powerful reason for prayer. We can remind the Lord that he will be praised for showing mercy to his servants, whether in helping ourselves or in aiding others who are in need.

So we can see three important lessons for our own prayer lives from this prayer of David when he was in trouble. We need to earth our prayers in reality, we are to remember the wonderful relationships we have with God, and we are to use reasonable arguments as we pray to the God who can answer us far above what we can ask or imagine.

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