Guest Article by Stephen Sprague
August 17, 2017 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Praying the Psalms of David
Lately I've been thinking a lot about prayer and the examples of prayer we have in the Psalms. More specifically, the Psalms attributed to David. They are a great example of what a good prayer life can look like. David voices it all in these Psalms. He confesses sin, shows frustration, begs for mercy, cries out in the midst of suffering, and praises God in both victory and defeat. In all of this he provides for us a great example of what it looks like to place one's faith in God.
Psalm 54 and 1 Samuel 23
Perhaps one of the most underappreciated parts of David's Psalms are the historical prologues found at the beginning of some of them. They don't just allow us to read his prayers but also to have insight into what motivated him to pray the words he did. Take Psalm 54 for example. It begins, "A maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, 'Is not David hiding among us?'" This is a reference to the events of 1st Samuel 23. To summarize the relevant event of 1st Sam 23 – David is hiding in the hill country of Ziph from Saul, who is out to kill him, and the Ziphites reach out to Saul and give away David's location. To make matters worse, the Ziphites are members of the Tribe of Judah – like David. They are his extended family, and they betrayed him. Now read verse 3 of the Psalm – "For Strangers have risen against me…" He calls his extended family STRANGERS! You can feel the weight of their betrayal, right? David even gives us their motive- "They do not set God before themselves." They buy into the age old lie of seeking their own gain apart from the will of God, and in doing so they cast David aside.
Psalm 54 for Us
Yet, in the midst of facing a stinging betrayal and an imminent death, David pens the beautiful words of Psalm 54. He opens his heart for all to see, and in 7 short verses he reveals his process of seeking, trusting, and rejoicing in the deliverance of God. Now, I know the historical context of this Psalm might make the words seem less "prayable" and more distant. After all, not many (probably none) of us are on the run from enemies who wish to kill us. Still, we can all agree that we live in a broken and hurting world. Everywhere around us we see evidence of this. It's on the news all the time – a tsunami off the coast of Indonesia killing hundreds of thousands of people, a counter-protestor mowed down by a car in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. And more close to home perhaps: loss of loved ones, sick and failing bodies, dead end jobs that demand everything from us and leave us with just enough to scrape by (if that), lost jobs, broken marriages, torn apart friendships and families, crushed hearts and minds controlled by the grip of depression. The list could easily go on and on – and for many of us, these things are merely the beginning.
Even now as I write this, I feel the weight of this sin-cursed world bearing down upon my own life. Some circumstances, although tough, I truly believe were brought about by God to bless my family and me, even though now they may seem like a burden. Other circumstances truly are a result of living in a broken world. Even worse however are those things present because I, at one time or another, bought into the lie – the lie that somehow life could be better if I did things my way instead of God's way (much like the lie that the Ziphites bought into) – and now I'm feeling the burden of just and natural consequences.
The Hope of Psalm 54
Yet, where David's hope was fixed on the promise that he would one day reign as king, our hope is fixed on a greater promise. And the things we suffer from now, although perhaps hard and painful, are only momentary afflictions compared to the promised blessing in the eternal kingdom of David's heir and Lord – Jesus. A kingdom where the people will dwell with their King, and "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4)
While you are not fully there yet, this kingdom is a sure and fixed reality for you if your faith is in Christ – giving you a reason to reach out in prayer and trust in God, and motivation to praise him, even amid your present afflictions. So, let the words of David in Psalm 54 be your words today as you bring your burdens before the Lord and rejoice in his promised deliverance.