What the Faithful Should Pray

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“This is what everyone faithful should pray at a time when you can be found.  Then, when the floodwaters are raging, they will not reach to him.”  Psalm 32:6 The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

I’m so happy that the stories and things that are related in Scripture are not just that, stories.  I’m so happy that the stories and things related in Scripture were for the benefit of those we hear about, and those around them, and for us today, and for those in the future.  I’m so happy that everything in Scripture is for all of us forever to learn and draw nearer to a loving God who is inviting us to know Him.  I’m so glad that You God, use those who have gone before us, and Your Holy Spirit, through Scripture to call us each by name and say, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

The CJB puts it this way, “Come to Me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  So what am I struggling and burdened over?  What is keeping me from rest?  I think for a while I’ve been thinking that the tough things in my life have been causing me to struggle and burdening me and keeping me from rest.  You know, Lord, those things that disturb my sleep and my peace, or those things that seemt to stand like mountains or roadblocks in the way You are drawing me.  But after going through these things, and reading Your Word, I’m starting to think differently.  And today You give me David’s words, his song, in Psalm 32.

I read this and I think, hm, this doesn’t really sound like a song to me.  Well, maybe in Hebrew it just flows as a song more.  Or, maybe, just maybe, when You open our eyes to agree with You and to see things as they really are and we repent and agree, no matter what the words sound like, it comes out as a song from our hearts.

I think I can start getting the idea of how David felt here and I think I can understand the song of joy and release on his heart.  David had been living in sin, trying to hide things from people and hiding his own face from God.  He committed adultery with Bathsheba.  It was his own choice, his own rebellion against God, his own sin against Bathsheba, his own sin before the flock of his pasture.  And then to hide it from Uriah, her husband, he went so far as to arrange his death.  In my book, that’s premeditated murder.  And here David is, King of Israel, second to God in authority.  That means, that David is God’s man shepherding the flock of Israel.  That’s a big responsibility.  That means that David is responsible for teaching all of Israel and those around Israel about God’s ways.  That means that David is responsible for being the example of living in God’s ways before them.  Is this how you do that, Lord?

The servant who was supposed to be serving You, Lord, as King, showed his people what unfaithfulness, rebellion against You, adultery, secrecy, pride, lust, deceit, murder, greed, and devaluing other humans looked like.  He showed what it looked like to be a leader under You covered in sin.  He showed them what it was to be like to be controlled by sin instead of You, God.  And that has serious ramifications. I’m taken to the parable of the unfaithful servant.  What was his due?  “Now the servant who knew what his master wanted but didn’t prepare or act according to his will, will be whipped with many lashes; however, the one who did what deserves a beating but didn’t know, wil receive few lashes.  From him who has been given much, much will be demanded–from someone to whom people entrust much, they ask still more.”  (Luke 12:47-48)

Our responsibility, Lord, to You and to others is serious stuff.  It will cause our own pain and the pain of others when we disregard it for our own selfish desires.  Let me relate Your own words to David here. “Adonai [the Lord] sent Nathan to David.  He came and said to him, ‘In a certain city there were two men, one rich, the other poor.  The rich man had vast flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, except for one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared.  It had grown up with him and his children; it ate from his plate, drank from his cup, lay on his chest–it was like a daughter to him.  One day a traveler visited the rich man, and instead of picking an animal from his own flock or herd to cook for his visitor, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to him’.  David exploded with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As Adonai lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  For doing such a thing, he has to pay back four times the value of the lamb–and also because he had no pity.’  Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.  Here is what Adonai, the God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel.  I rescued you from the power of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives to embrace.  I gave you the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  And if that had been too little, I would have added to you a lot more.  So why have you shown such contempt for the word of Adonai and done what I see as evil?  You murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own.'”  (2 Samuel 12:1-10)

It takes the finger of God upon us for us to really see our own hearts and our own sin.  David’s eyes and heart were opened, “I have sinned against Adonai!”  And here’ s where the song is born.  “Nathan said to David, ‘Adonai also has taken away your sin.  You will not die.  However…'”  Sin brings terrible consequences.  It rips families and individuals apart, and it rips our own hearts apart.  It breaks our relationship with our loving heavenly Father as we hide things and refuse to confront the truth.  Proverbs 28:14  shares “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”  Isn’t that what happened with David?  Is that what happens with me, Lord, when I try to feed my own desires, or handle the tough things my own way?

Here is Psalm 32, David is rejoicing in how blessed the person is who has been forgiven.  He’s talking more than happiness here. He’s talking about the well-being of his “inner state.”  It’s that feeling and knowledge and experiencing of “it is well, it is well with my soul!”  “O happy day, to be forgiven, O happy day to be set free.  The things that once have held me captive, no longer control me.  My God can look on me with favor, my God can shine His face on me,  O happy day, O happy soul, I’ve been set free!”

Pastor Conlin of Times Square Church shared something in his sermon yesterday that really applies here.  It was about David’s way of approaching what God was telling him and it’s my way, unfortunately, sometimes too.  In Psalm 101, time after time, David is saying how he will behave himself.  It’s all positive.  “I will sing of Your mercy and judgment.  I will behave myself wisely …and with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before my eyes…I won’t have anything to do with wicked people.  I’ll cut off the person who slanders others.  I won’t even allow the proud hearted around.  I’ll hang out with those who are faithful to You and destroy all those who do wickedly.”  Wow!  Go David!  That’s the way to be, right?

I never thought about it this way, buy Pastor Conlin shared from the point that You, Lord, were warning David these things You laid on his heart.  That here You were giving David a glimpse of the danger zones in his own life.  But instead of David crying out for You to make his way right in these areas, he established them in his own strength.  When he should have been crying, “Lord, teach me to sing of mercy and judgment unto You always,” he seemed to have it under control himself.  Instead of crying out, “Give me wisdom and lead me in a perfect way,” he was confident in himself.  Instead of saying, “Lord, I want to commit to setting no wicked thing before my eyes, but I need You to direct my eyes to that which You approve,” he committed in his own strength.  So with that start, let’s just look at our downfall, when the faithful forget to pray moment by moment for God’s spirit to strengthen and guide their desires and actions.

When David fell into sin that day, it didn’t just start with Bathsheeba.  Pride and self justification had already crept in.  There was a time when kings were out in the battlefield.  Where was David?  Skipping the hardships of the battle and resting back in Jerusalem.  I wonder if he thought, “I’m a good king, and my people know what they’re doing.  I’ve been working hard and now I need a little rest.  I’ve got it under control”?  Or maybe he was getting a little tired of all the responsibilities of being king and decided, “God’s got it and it’s time these folk stepped up and were responsible.”  I really don’t know.  But all I do know is that he wasn’t where kings should have been.

And here’s the first problem.  We ignore and justify what we know is true and right, to satisfy our own desires, whether they be for rest, or gain, or whatever.  Already, he was not behaving wisely, because a wise king always LEADS his people.  He’s God’s example to them, right Lord?  “[T]he sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.” (John 10:3)  So who was leading the people?  Not the king, not David.

So David was not leading.  And even in his own house, he was not walking with a perfect heart.  It’s one thing to glance on a woman by accident, but it’s another thing to continue thinking on that thought and pursuing that thought.  Bathsheeba was not the wicked thing he set before his eyes.  I mean, I have no idea if she thought she was unseen or what,  but David had a choice to make.  Like Joshua, he could have said in his heart, and out loud at that moment, “As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord.”  But that’s only something we can do in Your strength, Lord.  We can’t just do it because we say it or even because we make some commitment, like words in a song.  We have to confront You and we have to submit and we have to let You rule our heart and actions and desires.  We can’t fight our hearts without Your strength empowering us.

David isn’t the only believer with this problem.  Listen to Ezekiel 22:26.  “Her priests have done violence to My teaching and they profane My set-apart matters.  They have not distinguished between the set-apart and profane, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean.  And they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned in their midst.”  Who would have thought that this is what a man after God’s own heart would do?  Who would think that I could do this?  No, not me!  Right?  But isn’t that what was happening?  Isn’t that what happens.  My eyes, which desire the things of my heart, twist Your teachings and profane Your desires, Lord, by twisting them to my own.  I stop distinguishing between what pleases You  and what doesn’t and just concern myself with what pleases me.  I stop regarding the difference.  I hide my eyes from the truth in Your word and pick and choose what I want to obey, what I want to understand, what I feel like.  And what happens?  You are profaned and I enter into the perverse, like David.  Well, maybe I don’t have an affair, but come on now, sin, any sin, is perversity before a holy God!

This is the thing about eyes.  The eyes are a window of our soul.  How?  The eye sees.  And when it sees something, it acts upon what it sees.  Now, that action flows from the heart.  If the heart belongs to You, Lord, then Your response will flow from it.  But if the heart is not Yours, if it is not surendered to You, it will see as it’s owner, and act as the owner would act.  So, who really owned David at that time?  Who really owns me?

I have to understand this.  “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.”  (2 Chronicles 16:9)  Your eyes, Lord, see, and that seeing is accompanied with the appropriate action.  You see, and then You act and support.  If I continue to read that verse, I also see it’s a warning.  You see, and for those who are not seeing likewise, You rebuke.  How is my acting upon my seeing?  How was David’s acting upon his seeing?

What was David pondering?  Your ways and Your words, or this temptation among others?  What do I spend my time pondering?  What did he set before his eyes?  What I set before my eyes is what my actions are toward.  Did he contemplate evil or did he love You more and weep and cry out that You might change his thinking?  What about me?  Was his heart aligned with Yours, or did it succumb to perversity?  What about mine?  Wasn’t he guilty of slandering and worse to his neighbor, Uriah?  Wasn’t that because he succumbed to his own haughtiness and arrogance.  And noone would practice deceit in his house?  What’s adultery?  Where did that happen?  What was he practicing before Uriah and all his people?  What was he doing morning by morning?  How did he get to the point of morning by morning destroying good instead of evil?  Could I come to that point?

Yes.  I could, because I am just as human as David.  And if my life isn’t totally surrendered, totally enwrapped within the life and living and being of Christ, I’m lost in myself and to myself.  The whole point is that living in the Lord is a supernatural thing.  I have to understand that I am called to live in Him and let Him live in and through me.  When I sanctify, You, Lord, in my heart, it means I have to let You enter and become my life.  And I must continually, moment by moment, let You enter and become my life.  You didn’t once save me.  I am totally dependent on You to continually save me.  I must say, “let my thoughts be wrong and Yours be right.”  I must stop justifying myself and my actions and my way of thinking.

Here’s something about the kings.  The kings were responsible for reading the Scripture and writing it down for themselves.  Every one of them had to do this.  So they all knew from reading what You required.  But we can write down Scripture all we want, we can read it all we want, our eyes can see, but if we don’t embrace it by embracing You, it’s just words on a page, or words or thoughts in our head.  I need to embrace it as I embrace You moment by moment so that it becomes my life.  “For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.  It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together.  It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.  There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes.  And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves.”  (Hebrews 4:12-13)  David was accountable.  So am I.

These are all the things I need to be praying, moment by moment, so that I may keep my focus on You by Your grace and power in me.  I need to continually remember that it’s not of me, but all of You, and live and eat and breathe, and walk, and think in that reality.  This is the faith that I have to hold firmly to, not just the faith I profess, but the faith I let You live out in me in total desperation continually upon You.  I need to live continually in Your presence, not just in Your thought.  And I can’t think of a better Person to live in the presence of.  Because, when I’m tempted, You feel for me and understand my weakness.  See, You understand them even better than David or me.  But since You were tempted in every way and did not sin, You’re the only One who can give me the power to not sin.  The confidence is not in me.  Ever.  David learned that.  And I must learn that.  The confidence and power comes in approaching Your throne, where I find grace and power.  It’s there, and only there continually, that I receive mercy and find grace to help me when I need it.  And I need it continually!

How do I find grace to help in time of need?  Well, I have to come to the One who knows how to frap the vessel.  What?  To get help at the right time, I have to be with the One who knows how to tighten the ropes and chains on the boat.  The boat doesn’t secure itself, does it?  Well, neither can David and neither can I.  We’re just vessels.  We’re just earthen vessels.  But we’ve got this tremendous treasure inside, this excellency of the power of God.  But we’ve also got this power of self.  What will I rely on?  Because the only excellent power is Yours, God, not mine.  The only supernatural power, that works miracles in me and can take me beyond my own borders and strengths, is You.  Will I let You tighten my ropes moment by moment?  What will my prayer be?  And what will it look like in my life?

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