Models for prayer.

August 10, 2014.

“Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
(Psalm 46:8-11)

Amen. Let us all come before the Lord today and behold his awesome power and presence. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Let us ascribe all glory, honor and praise to the Lord of heaven, King of kings. Have you ever thought of prayer as a way to praise God? I think we have separated certain acts of worship in our minds and compartmentalized what we can do when. For example, if we need something, we ask through prayer. If we want to praise God, we sing a song. If we want to fellowship with the saints, we meet at the church building. Obviously this is a general statement, but how true do we hold to it? How many times have you asked God for something through song (a song that you composed or that you specifically went to for the thing you are asking)? How many times do we praise God in prayer, or in every day speech? I think a study of the psalms will shed some light on how the psalmists went about asking and praising that perhaps we do a bit differently.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.”
(Psalm 90:1-4)

In this prayer of Moses, he beings not with his request ion, but an acknowledgment of who God is and praise to his works. If you continue to read this prayer, you might find that there really doesn’t seem to be a request at all, at least not what we would think of as a request. Moses doesn’t ask for a peaceful week, a lot of money or even wisdom. He does ask for pity and deliverance, you could say, but in the end it is mainly a prayer of God’s past works and a plea for his will to continue. I don’t know about you, but my prayers tend to sound a lot different than this prayer of Moses. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not encouraging the memorization of prayers from Scripture for a verbatim spill out to God before we sleep at night. I think our prayers should be genuine and unique. But I do think we can take a lesson from some model prayers laid out in Scripture, to give an overview of their content and how they are laid out.

When we think about the Psalms, our minds typically go to David, as he wrote a good portion of them. David was a man after God’s own heart. He seems to have been extremely emotional and talented with pen and composition. When David was feeling something, you can bet that he wrote it down and probably set it to music. Notice the similarities of one of his prayers below and the one of Moses above:

“Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    give ear to my pleas for mercy!
    In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
    for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
    he has crushed my life to the ground;
    he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
    my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old;
    I meditate on all that you have done;
    I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
    my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”
(Psalm 143:1-6)

Do you see how both godly men focused on the actions of God, praising him for what he has done, and on his righteousness? They know that all good things come from the Father. They pray through his will, Moses outright and David through his trust in putting his soul in the hands of his Lord. Now compare these two prayers to what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer, a model set by Jesus:

“Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

What do all three have in common? They start out in acknowledgment and praise, ask for the will of the Father and talk about forgiveness/mercy/love and righteousness (“lead us not into temptation”).  What does that say about our prayer? Perhaps it says little because this is how we pray already. Or perhaps it is the opposite. Wherever we fall on this scale, I think we can all look to the prayers in the bible and strengthen our relationship with our Lord and Master. May he ever improve our prayer life, for this is our strong connection to him.

Suggested Daily Reading: Psalm 86, 90, 143, Matthew 6.

May the will of the Lord be done.

-Walter

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