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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Praying the Psalms

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

An Introduction
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me:
and to him that ordereth his conversation aright
will I shew the salvation of God.”
Psalm 50:23

One of the most important disciplines that spiritual leaders should teach their disciples is how to pray. The Lord Jesus is our example, for He taught His disciples to pray. “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). From John the Baptist’s example, Jesus’ students noted that spiritual training includes prayer. The timing of their request to learn this discipline was prompted by the example of their teacher, in this case the Lord Jesus. ‘“And as it came to pass as He was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, “When ye pray, say, ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil”’(John 11:1-4).

Because of the necessity to live a separated and different life from the world (not succumbing to temptation and wisely avoiding evil), the Christian needs to undergird every aspect of his life with prayer. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

James makes this very plain in his epistle when he wrote “…yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2-3). Yet The Lord Jesus pointedly told His disciples they could do nothing without Him. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:5–7). To fruitfully serve, a disciple must abide in a faith union with Him. Only by abiding in Him (and this is done through prayer and Bible study) can God work through them (v 5). Prayer forms an indispensable part of bringing the Lord’s leadership and power to bear in work to which He calls committed disciples.

However, prayer has no power in itself. Until it harmonizes with God’s Word, a person’s prayers are, at best, only frustration, or self-delusion. As supplication, prayer must always have as its ultimate goal the accomplishment of God’s purposes. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, tat, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him. (I John 5:14-15). From James we learn that believers must also pray with proper motives in the light of God’s revelation if they expect real answers. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (James 3:22). Because we often don’t know what God’s will is, we must pray by reasoning with God to discern His will. As we seek His face, we must discern what He accepts as the basis for asking for a felt need. The prayer voiced in Psalm 123:1-2 gives us insight into seeking discernment: “Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that He have mercy upon us.” What we want might be very legitimate, but our reasons for wanting it may be unacceptable with God. Many a person has prayed for the salvation of a family member, but the motive was just to have a more pleasant relationship.

When I served as a chaplain in the United States Army in Vietnam, we felt threatened by intelligence pertaining to an eminent and overwhelming attack. I asked God to save my life for several reasons, but experienced no peace until I asked on the basis that I could glorify Him more by living than by dying. God’s Spirit witnessed to my spirit that this was acceptable to Him and I received the joy and relief reflected in Paul’s prayer statement, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans15:13). About two weeks later, the enemy assault was defeated by God confusing them so that they defeated themselves reminiscent of an incident recorded in 2 Chronicles 20:1–30 when the Moabites, enemies of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, were confused and defeated.

One of the surest ways to pray according to God’s will comes from praying His Word back to Him. Rightly applied, the Scripture contains His will. We cannot have confidence pleading with an infinite authority as finite creatures; we need to follow the Apostles’ exhortation as found in Ephesians 5:17-20,“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit (literally, ‘in Spirit’) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Since the Psalms are to occupy our active meditation, I purposed to meditate on them and to pray them back to God in the light of the New Testament. The subsequent postings on Psalms are the result of that spiritual discipline. I share them with the prayer that your hearts and minds will be blessed as you seek to grow as a learner in the prayerful presence of the Lord.

Dedication: To my father, Edward Lundwall, the person who taught me to meditate.

1 comment:

  1. Very powerful message on praying in the will of God. Eph 5:17 speaks to my heart about 'be not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is.' God wants us to know his will for us and will reveal it to us as we pray.