1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. 5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.
6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. 7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
Evidently David spent time reading the Scriptures. And evidently he was a fan of praying Scripture. Note what Numbers 6:22-27 says:
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
You can never go wrong when you pray the Word of God. Here are a few reasons why I am a fan:
1) Prayer is supposed to be more than talking at God. It should be a conversation. As we read God’s Word and ponder what it says we can pray based on what His Word is telling us. Our time with God then becomes more of a dialogue than a monologue. This is a good thing.
2) Sometimes our prayers can become very mundane. They can become overly “me-centered.” When we learn to pray Scripture we start praying things that are important to God. I especially like using some of the prayers that are recorded in Scripture as starting points for my prayer time.
3) Sometimes we pray robotically. We do it because we are supposed to do it not because we are emotionally engaged. The Psalms are a great example of prayers that were prayed where you can hear the emotion that is involved. We need to get our emotions involved in our praying – praying with passion for God and compassion for people – and praying Scripture helps me to do this.
Verse 1 is a great prayer to pray for ourselves and others: “May God be gracious to us and bless usand make his face shine upon us”. But don’t pray it without verse 2: “that your ways may be known on earth your salvation among all nations.” Verse 1 alone is a selfish, me-centered prayer. But with verse 2 it becomes a God-exalting prayer. God blesses us not as an end in itself but in order that we might be a blessing to others and that we might make His great Name known.
Last week (Psalm 57) the imagery that was in David’s mind was that of a refuge as he was hiding from King Saul in a cave. This week the imagery in his mind as he thinks about God is that of a rock:
1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 times in this Psalm David refers to God as his Rock. It would appear from reading this Psalm that things were on somewhat shaky ground in his kingdom. David knew that he could cling to THE Rock even when “all other ground was sinking sand.”
We all need a Rock to cling to. Often the ground under our feet is shaky. Sometimes we even get that sinking feeling. Praise God that He is our Rock.
A few years ago I wrote a song in this regard. I will share the words with you (and spare you the audio version). As I was thinking about God as my Rock this is how I expressed it. I would encourage you to ponder the great truth that God is your Rock and find a way somehow to express it.
You are a Rock
You are a Rock that refreshes
You are a Rock that I find refuge in
You are a Rock that has redeemed me
A Rock that has released me from my sin
And I will praise you
I will praise you
I’ll praise your holy name
Your greatness I’ll proclaim
I will praise you
I will praise you
I’ll praise the one who is the solid Rock.
You are a Rock I can rely on
You are a Rock that has rescued me from hell
You are a Rock that I can run to
A Rock that I can rest in when I fail
There are several things from this Psalm that stand out to me…
A note about the context – David has fled from King Saul (1 Samuel 24) and is hiding in a cave. If I were journaling about this experience I would have noted, “I found refuge in a cave.” David, however, says “…in You my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” David knew that that if God wanted him to be found then the cave would not protect him. His only refuge was in the Lord. This is a great reminder – that when things look bleak and life is tough I can run to God and find refuge in a way that I can find it no where else.
He says in verse 2 that he cries out to “God Most High, who fulfills His purpose for me” – David instinctively knew that that he was a part of God’s grand purpose. At this point in his life that purpose included hiding in a cave. Sometimes God allows us to have cave experiences so that we can learn to cling to God.
There is significance to the name David uses in this verse for God – God Most High. God, from His exalted place in the heavens, has a vantage point that we do not have. He can see the big picture. He can see how Davids’ cave experience will be used to grow him. He can see how our tough times and difficult days will mold us and make us and shape us. When we find ourselves in these places we must cry out to Him. Take refuge in Him. Find solace in Him – because He is fulfilling His purposes for us. And I am reminded that His purposes for me are usually not my purposes for me.
Twice in this Psalm David mentions the love and faithfulness of God (vs 3 & 10). He does this at a time when his life is in danger. Even in crisis – when life is seemingly austere- his faith in the love and faithfulness of God triumphs over despair and hopelessness. This is an incredible perspective to have and the mark of genuine faith.
Finally I will mention what seems to be a refrain in this Psalm. It is a phrase that David repeats two times. “Be exalted O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.” (vs 5 & 11). It is as if David has adopted this phrase as his life goal. Not a bad one to have. Whether he is the King reigning over the nations or a fugitive running for his life his desire is that God might be exalted and that God’s glory might be pervasive.
1 Samuel 13:14 (and Acts 13:22) describes David as a man after God’s own heart. I’ve always thought that this was curious knowing what we know about David. He was a murderer, he was an adulterer, he was not a very good parent. And yet…! So why would the Bible describe him this way? Psalm 51 is as good a reason as I can come up with. I will let it speak for itself – read it thoughtfully and see if you come up with the same reasons that I come up with.
(A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.)
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Many people believe that apologizing or saying “I’m sorry” is a sign of weakness. David figured out that just the opposite was true – especially when it came to his relationship with God. He found that when he carried the weight of sin upon himself that his energy and strength were sapped. But when he acknowledged his sin it was literally as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders. He was invigorated and refreshed, strengthened and energized.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Sin is an incredibly heavy burden to bear. We were never meant to have to bear it. This is why Christ died for us – because the weight of sin would suck the life out of us and kill us. This is exactly what it did to our Savior. This is why confession is good for the soul – because it restores our vitality as we embrace what Jesus did for us on the cross. Confession is an expression of faith – it indicates to God that we recognize our sinfulness, Christ’s holiness, and God’s willingness to restore us to life and fellowship.
It may be time for a little introspection guided by the Spirit of God. If you find yourself lacking spiritual vigor and have little motivation to pursue the things of God then most probably there is a sin issue that needs to be dealt with. Resolve to get this resolved or you will pay a high price for it. As my former pastor used to remind us (though it was not original to him)…
Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.
As I read this Psalm one of the things that I am struck by is the fact that David spent time intentionally thinking about God. Thinking about who He is. Thinking about what He has done. He greatly valued his thinking time and used it to think great thoughts about God.
Which, of course, begs the question – how do I use my thinking time? And how do you use yours? What do we spend time thinking about. I’m afraid that I let others think for me most of the time. And I let the TV and internet fill the time that I could spend thinking about God. The bottom line for me, I am embarrassed to admit, is that I spend very little time, if any at all, intentionally thinking great thoughts about God.
As David thinks about God he is drawn to His beauty and drawn to want to know Him – this is what he says:
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
ONE THING! If you could ask God for ONE THING what would it be? David’s one thing is very different from my one thing. My theory is this – the reason why David’s one thing is what it is is because he spends time thinking great thoughts about God. The reason my one thing is what it is is because I spend time thinking great thoughts about me and about my job and about worldly things.
David’s thinking time leads him to prayer and worship. You can see this as you read as you read the last half of the Psalm. My thinking time leads to … well, nothing – mostly wasted time.
As I read Psalm 19 this is the picture in my head…. David is on the roof of his palace enjoying some much needed alone time with God. He has with him 2 things – his personal journal and a copy of the Scriptures. He is looking around at God’s creation and is filled with awesome wonder at everything that he sees. He cannot help but write down his amazement at what the Creator has established as he views the sun, the sky, the clouds; as he feels the warmth on his skin and the wind on his face. He is drawn to worship and marvels through his pen at what is so obvious before him – the presence of Almighty God.
Then he picks up the Scriptures which he has brought with him. As he begins to read he again is struck with awe at what God has provided for His people:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes…
How wonderful is the Word of God. And as David reflects on the awesomeness of creation and the awesomeness of Scripture he begins to reflect on how awful is his sinfulness. And he pleads with God to keep him from sin. He pleads with God that everything that he says and even thinks would be acceptable to Him. He desperately wants a right relationship with the Lord – his Rock and his Redeemer.
One of the things that I learn from David through the Psalms is the power of journaling my prayers. 2 reasons: 1) So that I can go back and be reminded of how God was teaching me and what He was showing me, and 2) So that future generations can go back and see what God was doing in my life.
As I close I have a new picture in my head. It is a picture of my great grandkids – who stumble upon a journal in the attic – a journal that I had written way back in 2012. They begin to read about my reflections on God and see how I prayed that my great grandkids would live with boldness and courage and humility. That they would be filled with joy and live sacrificially surrendered lives. That they would be leaders in their church and lovers of their families. And that as they read they are drawn to worship the awesome God of creation and drawn to read the awesome Word of God. Just as I am as I read Psalm 19.
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at some of the prayers from the Psalms. This week it is a look at David and Psalm 18.
He starts off his prayer by telling God that he loves Him: “I love you O Lord, my strength.” It is rare for me to tell God that I love Him. And I’m not one of those guys that has a particularly hard time saying those 3 words – and yet when it comes to saying them to God, I don’t. I wonder why that is? Is it because I don’t love Him? I think I do. Is it because it feels weird saying the words to someone that I can’t see? Maybe. Is it because I don’t yet understand what it really means to love God? Perhaps. Is it because I know that the way that I live says something different than what the 3 words express? Hmmm!
In John 21 Jesus point blank asks Peter “Do you love me?” Peter answers the way I suspect that I would answer. “Of course, Lord, you know that I love you”. Jesus isn’t easily so convinced. Essentially He says to Peter – “You say that you love me – prove it.”
So I guess that is my mission this week – to prove to God that I love Him. That way when I finally say the words they will be backed up by my actions. The proof is in the doing.
Here are the last 2 prayer maxims from Mark Batterson that I will share:
100% of the prayers you DON’T pray WON’T get answered.
Reminds me of one of my favorite verses from James: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (4:2). Perhaps the biggest reason that God does not do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” is because we do not ask Him to.
God honors BOLD PRAYERS because BOLD PRAYERS honor God.
It’s time to quit with the namby pamby praying and start asking God to do something significant in your life and in our church. Question: What are the bold prayers that you are praying for yourself and your family? What are the bold prayers that you are praying for your church?
Enough said! Feel free to ask me what I am praying for our church – you might be surprised.
The more you HAVE TO DO the more you HAVE TO PRAY.
Martin Luther purportedly said, “Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Some are not so sure that he actually said this but everyone agrees that it reflects accurately his attitude toward prayer. Me, not so much. My attitude is typically, “I have so much to do that I better get started doing it,” or “I have so much to do that I don’t have time to pray.” I guess that shows just how much I really value prayer. Still hoping that this is changing. I want to want to pray – not just do it because I feel like I should. Not there yet.
The MORE YOU PRAY the MORE YOU DREAM and the more you dream the more you HAVE to pray.
I do know what he means by this. Some of my best ideas have come to me while I was in prayer mode. You would think that this would motivate me to pray more. A good reminder.
WHO YOU BECOME is determined by HOW YOU PRAY.
I had to think on this one a bit. Here’s what I came up with. If I pray for material things I will become a worldly man. If I pray small prayers I will become a “small’ Christian. If I pray prayers that are bigger than me then my faith will grow bigger. If I pray to a God that can do great things then I will be used to do great things. If I pray that God would reach the nations with the gospel then I will develop a heart for the nations. If I pray for compassion and a heart that grieves for people who are lost then I will become a man who must find a way to reach them. So… I need to seriously evaluate how I pray.