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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.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Psalm 141:1-6 - Prayer for Personal Protection

R. E. Prothero, in his interesting book called The Psalms in Human Life, informs us that in the days of the early church, when the Lord’s people faced intense persecution, they turned to the Psalms and used them regularly, with Psalm 141 being designated the psalm for evening worship. We can imagine those little groups of our spiritual ancestors singing the same words that we sometimes sing. No doubt, this psalm was selected for this purpose because their leaders regarded it as containing suitable themes for evening reflection in difficult times. And since we live in difficult times, it should be helpful for us to spend a few minutes reviewing the words here of David as he drew near to God.
The first aspect that the psalm reveals is the urgency that can mark prayer at times (v. 1). It is clear that the psalmist wants immediate help, that he is in a situation of difficulty in which he requires divine aid. Yet as we look a bit closer at his urgent petition we can see that what he desires is divine company (‘hasten to me’). It is possible to pray for a thing without requesting the presence of God. After all, it is easy for the Lord to deal with an issue from a distance without coming himself to ease the situation with a sense of his presence. The psalmist longs for the presence of God to be experienced as well as for the power of God to be exercised.
Second, David wanted his prayers to be accepted by God (v. 2). We can see this from the two references he makes to the sacrificial system connected to the Tabernacle. In particular, David was thinking of the evening worship taking place there. Every morning and evening the priest would burn incense (Exod. 30:7-8) and every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed at the door of the Tabernacle (Exod. 28:38-42), along with a grain offering and a drink offering. The sacrifice of the lamb itself was a burnt offering, which was a picture of total consecration. When the offering was made, the Lord promised to meet with his people.
We can see the points that David was making with this request for acceptance. One was that he wanted the Lord to regard his prayer as very fragrant, a second was that he was dedicating himself to his God, and a third was that he wanted his God to come and meet with him in order to help him.  And we should want the same features to be present when we pray.
Third, David here asks for divine protection for his words (vv. 3-4). He seems to be conscious of the possibility that he may say something wrong as he prayed. Henry Smith, a Puritan preacher, observed about this verse: ‘The fear of the Lord stood at the door of their souls, to examine every thought before it went in, and at the door of their lips, to examine every word before it went out, whereby they escaped a thousand sins which we commit, as though we had no other work.’
A fourth matter about which David prayed was fellowship (v. 5). Fellowship takes many forms, and here David mentions one of the rarest ways to help other believers, yet one of the most essential and helpful. He says that if he begins to go astray he wants another believer to speak very strongly to him – the word ‘strike’ means to hit hard. When a believer rebukes another for allowing temptation he is expressing brotherly love.

In verses 5 and 6 David prays for victory over those who were opposing him. When that would happen, he would be able to speak about God to others and say what a wonderful Saviour and Friend he is. After all, one of his roles as the king of Israel was to know God’s Word and communicate it to others.

We will think about the remaining verses of this psalm tomorrow.

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