Thursday, January 16, 2014

Without Ceasing

“The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
The Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:8-9)
Excuse all the posts on prayer the last while (is it possible to be over-occupied with prayer?).

If the Psalms are any indication, David — who had his share of troubles in his lifetime, some self-inflicted and others for which he was entirely blameless — seems to have brought everything to the Lord as a matter of course throughout most of his life.

I am intrigued by the explanatory sentences that appear prior to the first verse of many psalms.

Psalm 18, we’re told, was addressed to the Lord “on the day when the Lord rescued [David] from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul”. That was, no doubt, a significant day in the life of David and a cause to give thanks which most people could relate to, a good reason to write a hymn or record one’s thoughts and feelings about God.

Psalm 3 records David’s reflections “when he fled from Absalom his son” — again, a big deal, for both David and the kingdom of Israel. People died in that particular civil war, probably in large numbers.

Psalm 30 is “a song at the dedication of the temple”. An important event? Absolutely. I’d record that one for posterity too, even if I did a poor job of it. (David didn’t.)

Psalm 7, though, David “sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite”. Cush’s words and the event to which the writer refers are not recorded in scripture to my knowledge, but David was troubled enough to seek the Lord over them. The Psalm itself shows that David felt accused of something and committed that concern to his God.

David reached out to the Lord “when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech’ ”, “when the Ziphites went and told Saul, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’ ”, “when he fled from Saul, in the cave” and “when Saul sent men to watch his house”. David went to the Lord about things that were happening, about things that he feared might happen, about things that had already happened …

Basically, if David had a problem, big or small, whether it was a life-threatening issue or just a troubled conscience, he prayed about it. And in many instances scripture records it for us.

I especially like Psalm 6, in which David meditates on how the Lord deals with his very human concerns:

He Responds

“The Lord accepts my prayer”, he says. That is certainly a satisfying outcome. To know that you have been heard by heaven and can anticipate vindication before your enemies is a remarkable thing. David understands that the acceptance of his prayer means that the Lord will uphold his servant’s cause. On the basis of this certainty, he can conclude, “All my enemies shall be ashamed”.

He Acknowledges

But even prior to the certain knowledge that his prayer has been accepted, David can confidently confirm that “The Lord has heard my plea”. Perhaps the Lord will accept David’s prayer, perhaps for reasons we don’t presently understand, the Lord may not elect to accept it. But David can say he has “heard my plea”. He is not deaf to the cries of his own. God’s plans and counsels may currently permit him to grant a favourable response to his children, but whether they do or whether they don’t, “he has heard”, always and without exception. And he cares.

He Knows

But even more, David can say at the outset, “The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping”. Before we ever get down on our knees, before we realize the seriousness of the problems we are facing, when we are simply reacting to a distressing situation in our usual human, emotional way, the Lord hears. He is aware before we opened our mouths to cry for help.

For “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”, David says in Psalm 103.

“Is anyone among you suffering?” James asks. “Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Is anyone among you sick?”

Whatever our circumstances, the remedy, we are taught, both by word and by example, is to pray, praise, and pray some more.

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