The Psalm of the Word (Part 19): Help

The Psalm of the Word

I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord!
I will observe Your statutes.

I cried to You; save me
And I shall keep Your testimonies.

I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.

My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.

Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.

Those who follow after wickedness draw near;
They are far from Your law.

You are near, O Lord,
And all Your commandments are truth.

Of old I have known from Your testimonies
That You have founded them forever.

(Psalm 119:145-152)

This lesson is about the help that we can receive from God. In particular, the psalmist emphasizes prayer. However, as we should expect by this point in this psalm, we cannot appeal to God without regard to His word.

Prayer is Important for God’s People

I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes. I cried to You; save me and I shall keep Your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words” (Psalm 119:145-147).

Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances” (Psalm 119:149).

As we begin, we should keep in mind that the entire psalm we have been studying is really a long prayer offered to God. In these verses, the psalmist made several points specifically about prayer.

First, prayer is to be directed to God. David said, “I cried to You” (Psalm 119:146), referring to his prayer to God. Jesus taught this when He offered a model for prayer: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9). When Paul wanted his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed, he “implored the Lord three times that it might leave” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Other examples from the Bible – in both the Old and New Testaments – could also be given. What we see throughout the Bible is that prayer is to be offered to God. There is no authority to pray to angels, saints, or anyone else.

Second, prayer must be from the heart. The psalmist said, “I cried with all my heart” (Psalm 119:145). Jesus condemned the use of “vain repetitions” in prayer (Matthew 6:7, KJV). This means that we should not mindlessly recite prayers by rote. While this might be the application that immediately comes to mind, Jesus’ teaching also means we should not ramble thoughtlessly in our prayers either. Regardless of whether a prayer is structured or unstructured, it must be from the heart. We should follow the example of Hannah as she was “praying before the Lord” that she “poured out [her] soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:12-15). Everything we do in service to God must be “from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6). If our prayers are not offered in this way, then we are like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who “stood and was praying…to himself,” but not to God (Luke 18:11).

Third, prayer must be a priority in our lives. The psalmist said he would “rise before dawn and cry for help” (Psalm 119:147). The first thing David would do on a given day was pray to God. This is not to say that prayer must be the first thing we do in the morning. God has not given specific times for His people to pray. But it must be a regular practice. Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When Jesus gave His instructions about prayer, He repeatedly said “when” you pray, not if you pray (Matthew 6:5-7). It is expected that God’s people will regularly pray to Him. Prayer is one of the practices in which the early Christians “continued steadfastly” (Acts 2:42, KJV). Offering prayers to God must be a priority for us.

Fourth, prayer is to be offered with appreciation for God’s kindness. David prayed, “Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness” (Psalm 119:149). He expressed the same thought earlier: “Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness” (Psalm 119:124). Later, Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6; cf. Colossians 4:2). If we are to pray acceptably, we must recognize God as the source of “every good thing given and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). God has richly blessed us. As we recognize this, we should pray for His kindness to continue.

Fifth, prayer must be offered with the understanding that God hears us. Again, the psalmist said, “Hear my voice” (Psalm 119:149). It is important to understand that the prayers that God hears – not just the prayers of which He is aware, since He is omniscient, but the prayers that He acknowledges – are those that are offered by the righteous. The psalmist wrote elsewhere: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:15-17; cf. 1 Peter 3:12).

Sixth, prayer must be offered in faith that God will answer. With a whole heart, David cried to God to “answer” him (Psalm 119:145). This is related to the point about God hearing prayers, but goes a step further with God answering prayers. How does this happen? By faith we know that God is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). However, this does not mean that God will give us whatever we ask in prayer. Those prayers that are answered are those that are according to His will. John made this point: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). God hears the prayers of all the righteous; but it is His will that will be done.

Prayer Should Be Part of an Obedient Life

I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will observe Your statutes. I cried to You; save me and I shall keep Your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words” (Psalm 119:145-147).

Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances” (Psalm 119:149).

Remember, God’s hears the righteous, not the wicked (Psalm 34:15-17). His word is “righteous forever” (Psalm 119:144). Therefore, to be righteous, we must follow His word. If we want our prayers to be heard, we must be obedient.

This is why the psalmist expressed his commitment to obeying God: “I will observe Your statutes.” “I shall keep Your testimonies” (Psalm 119:145-146). Obedience to God’s word will not happen by accident. We must be determined to follow His will. Writing in anticipation of the day of the Lord, Peter said, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Just as David was committed to obedience, we must be as well.

Furthermore, we must value God’s words. David said he waited for or hoped in (KJV) God’s word. The reason why he would do this is because God’s word is more valuable than anything of this world. He said earlier, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72). His words are “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). In the same way, we must highly value God’s word.

We must also seek life that is in harmony with the Lord’s teachings: “Revive me…according to Your ordinances” (Psalm 119:149). Many believe the concepts of grace and law are conflicting. Yet David recognized that God’s lovingkindness and His ordinances are related. This is true even when we get to the New Testament. The law we follow today is “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and it instructs us to live a certain way (Titus 2:11-12). We seek God’s grace and mercy by obeying His word.

However, serving God is about more than mere grudging obedience. We should desire the life that God desires for us, not the life that we desire. Paul said, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Like Paul, we must be willing to “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ” and to “attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11). This is what is truly important and beneficial for us.

Prayer and Meditation

My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:148).

Both prayer – particularly our personal prayers – and meditation have to do with taking advantage of quiet time. The psalmist wrote earlier, “I will meditate on Your precepts” (Psalm 119:15). Life is full of distractions. Jesus described these distractions as the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). We must not allow these distractions to choke out His word. To prevent this from happening, we must purposefully take advantage of whatever quiet moments we have – or those we can create – to reflect upon the word of God.

Nearness of God and the Wicked

Those who follow after wickedness draw near; they are far from Your law. You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth” (Psalm 119:150-51).

The wicked were in close physical proximity to David (Psalm 119:150). The same will be true for us today. We cannot “go out of the world” and avoid contact with wicked people (1 Corinthians 5:10). Because we are around such people, we will often face persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). The wicked hate to be exposed as being evil (cf. John 3:20). By living obedient lives, we, like Noah, condemn the world (Hebrews 11:7). Many will hate us for that. As long as we are living in this world, we will have to deal with such people.

While the wicked were in close physical proximity to David, God was in close spiritual proximity to him (Psalm 119:151). In the same way, God is always with us no matter who is against us. Paul asked, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” After listing several trials, tribulations, and persecutions that we might face, he concluded that nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:35-39). The Hebrew writer said, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Though the wicked may be around us, God is always near us and will not forsake us if we do not forsake Him.

God’s Testimonies Have Been Established

Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever” (Psalm 119:152).

God’s word is “forever…settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). We pray in hope because God does not change (cf. Malachi 3:6; Psalm 31:2-3). We also obey in hope because God’s word does not change (cf. 1 Peter 1:25; Galatians 1:8-9).

Because of these things, as we obey God, we can have confidence in our future hope. John wrote, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:28-29). To practice righteousness, we must look to the word of God – the source of righteousness (cf. Psalm 119:144; Romans 1:16-17). Since his word is settled (Psalm 119:89), we can be confident that He will “revive” us “according to [His] ordinances” (Psalm 119:149), if we will only obey them.

Conclusion

Prayer is an important part of life for God’s people, but it must be connected with a life of obedience. We must strive to fill our hearts and minds and, therefore, our lives with the word of God.


This entire series is available in paperback. Click on the link for more information – The Psalm of the Word: A Study of Psalm 119.


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