Praying with Passion

Psalm 143

Much wrong thinking about prayer both in culture at large and among professed believers. Has prompted meme: “Stop posting memes that say share and you’ll be blessed. God is not your fairy godmother, and that isn’t how it works.” More wrong ideas: I pray, God has to listen; I don’t see results, God must not be listening; I said it once, should be enough.

“The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly set forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and restated today. We are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease, spiritual indolence, religious slothfulness, all operate against this type of petitioning. Our praying, however, needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.” E M Bounds, Necessity of Prayer, Chapter 7

Now don’t get wrong idea from that – people have confused mix of ideas about power of prayer… I could feel the prayers; need to get as many people praying as we can -> more prayers = more power; can’t simply pray, must “cry out to God”.

God not fairy godmother, genie in a bottle, cannot be manipulated by prayer. God not obligated to listen to anyone… other than Lord Jesus, and those who come to the Father through him. So, when those who love the world get hurt by the world, cries to God fall on deaf ears. Now, God does not turn blind eye, deaf ear to their plight entirely – at some basic level God is committed to providing for his creatures. But… he does not hear their prayers like he hears those of his children.

Prayer, even when by dozens or hundreds, does not generate aura or force field here on earth or in heaven. If you felt something when all your friends prayed, was power and presence of God. Power in prayer belongs solely to God – role of prayer is that it is means God has appointed to prompt him to act. You ask and God will do… in his way and time according to his good purpose.

Remember James 4:2b-3a “You do not have, because you do not ask.You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” So… we must ask, we must ask rightly (for right reasons), and at times importunately (persistently, especially to the point of annoyance). Jesus told story of importunate widow – Luke 18:1-8 – had specific purpose in telling: “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart”. Prayer is serious business – deserves thought, energy and persistence. iow, praying with passion – putting our hearts into it. David first explains why and on what basis he prays, then tells God what he expects in response.

Why

a. that’s the kind of God you are v.1

hear me, pay attention, answer me

no presumption – of course God will listen, after all I’m one of his kids; doesn’t come barging in, instead requests audience

addresses God by personal name, YHWH – “God sent me”, “what is his name?”, “I AM” – God in relationship

comes expectantly, confident that God who has covenanted with his people will be responsive to needs and requests

in your faithfulness, your righteousness

we think of faithfulness = keeping commitments, kinda like dependability; is accurate, but for God it goes beyond actions

God is faithful = steady, stable – responsive but not reactionary: responds to his people according to his eternal plan

God’s faithfulness also means: will always act according to his nature and character – should expect him to do what is right, just

makes a point regarding prayer – don’t bother ask God to do something contrary to his revealed will… answer will be no!

A. I need your grace v.2

already set this up in first verse: expectation of response based on God and his character, not merit of one praying

last thing we should want or ever pray for: that God would give us what we deserve; thank God he gave Jesus what we deserve, gives us what we don’t deserve

instead should plead for mercy, that God would not add consequences for sinfulness on top of pagan persecution

if God is righteous, no one living is righteous, what then? why bother, what basis for hope? only in a suitable substitute

given other psalms David wrote, not unreasonable to think he understood a lot; we have rest of story, know his name

side note: God graciously hears prayer of his children, does not always answer in way we expect – need to listen/watch closely

B. here’s my case v.3-4

harassment nothing new!! – persecuted = pursued, chased

“It is commonly used in a military sense, where one party pursues another with harmful intent. …Given the military imagery this term usually conveys, it may evoke powerful and threatening image. Only God can deliver from this type of persecution.” Mounce

pictures those in life who just won’t give up – may be individual, organization, not satisfied until have reached goal

keep up pressure, limit freedom, make simple existence increasingly difficult, suck life and joy out of intended victim

relentless pressure takes toll on strongest believer, often by God’s design

fighting against enemies takes strength and energy… eventually reach limit of human endurance, lose ability to resist

serious situation with few options, in fact only two – lay down and die (they’re gonna get him anyway) or cry out to God

C. I look on your face v.5-6

even though thoroughly demoralized, can follow life-saving strategy – remember the old days… with particular purpose in mind

often when we reminisce, is about how good the old days were, desire to get them back… usually for own benefit

different picture here: remember old days and how good God was, desire to get back conscious awareness of God’s presence

retrospect here goes back beyond personal memory – talking about ancient days, going back to beginning

pondering / meditating on specific events and circumstances – when God was clearly working, accomplishing his purpose

e.g. Magnalia Christi Americana (roughly, The Glorious Works of Christ in America) – looking at God’s fingerprints in history

in 21st century, have huge treasury to draw from: all of Bible (not just portions of OT), all of church history to present

today’s church is incredibly impoverished by ignorance of its history and the Glorious Works of Christ in the world

highly significant result – thirst that only God could satisfy… with himself

meditating on God and his works incites to prayer and worship – essential ways we show a passion for God

this kind of meditation worthwhile at any time, under any circumstances, especially when life is difficult and overwhelming

What – specific requests

D. let me hear you v.7-8

I want evidence of your favor: I need to hear and see affirmations of your love and mercy

yes, worship God in spirit, fellowship with him on spiritual level; doesn’t make it wrong to ask for more tangible evidence

God understands we are sensory beings – he made us that way, he knows how best to encourage and lift our spirits

not idle request, to gratify curiosity or pride – has genuine need to be assured of right standing / favor with God

is logical follow-up to longing expressed end v.6 – to thirst for God that way and come up empty… situation is hopeless

devoted follower can and should pray for guidance, expecting God will supply it

trust/confidence is in God, thirst is for God, needs to be sure of directions to “find” God and have thirst quenched

listening for God’s voice, seeks wisdom to know right way through circumstances – not necessarily seeking way out, rather right way that will lead to blessing

sincere prayer communicates with God and encourages the one praying

say it out loud makes it more real – declaring trust in God reinforces trust in God, in part because God’s “spirit witnesses to our spirit that we are God’s children” Rom. 8:16

to speak and hear of focused thirst for God keeps attention on our need, fuels our good desire – builds up others when they hear also

E. help me follow you v.9-10

reporters / critics can say what they like about prayer not working: prayer is absolute life-line for believer… for all circumstances and needs

enemies are such that only God can effectively deliver; reason for that – at root they are spiritual, not simply physical

need for deliverance from enemies not simply to wide-open spaces where we can fend for ourselves – must be deliverance to God who is our shelter, protector, refuge

neat thing is: child of God can have perfect shelter in God while at same time surrounded by enemies

not bubble existence but filtered experience: only what God has decreed for our good reaches us

prayer really is for deliverance from hindrances to obedience, people or things that hold us back from doing right

and asking God to supply needed resources to be faithful: shelter, instruction, guidance

we acclimate pretty easily to what seems “normal”, think we can handle (at least some) on our own – reality is: need constant teaching/leading to know and do God’s will

all in view of God’s authority and character: you are God, you are good – you make rules, you can be trusted

F. I need life from you v.11-12

need not only more light to see the right way, need more life to follow it… for sake of God’s reputation

not asking for more because of earned merit – still consciously dependent on God’s character and mercy

in part to save my life, also for sake of your reputation… deal with enemies – one who is enemy of child of God is enemy of God

request not for vengeance, rather that God would act according to his righteous character and defend his people

if God really loves his children, is right to expect he will do all necessary for their well-being; also right for him to expect his children to give him glory when he supplies their need

Is natural for child of God to be overwhelmed at times with circumstances. Here another good example of how to deal: seek God’s help with troubles, then move on to seeking God’s help to follow. Take particular note of final phrase: “I am Your servant”. Faithful servant prays passionately that his Master would help him be faithful servant. For us, means looking to Jesus, praying in His name not our own, seeking his life and leading with energy and intensity.

“Cling to the faithfulness of the unchanging One, to the friendship of the loving One, to the strength of the Almighty One, and to the compassion and sympathy of the crucified One, and let your Jesus be all in all.” Octavius Winslow

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