This Psalm is just absolutely jam-packed with gems about God and how God interacts with us his people. It is a psalm full of personal and experiential knowledge of God’s nature and character.
It’s almost like David is explaining in the rest of the Psalm why he says in verse 1; “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
David wants you and I to join him in magnifying the LORD with him, wants us to join in and exalt God’s name (God’s character and attributes) together.
My God answers prayer! (vs4-6,15,17)
David can testify that he called out for God, he enquired after God in threatening life situation after threatening life situation (David was a fugitive fearing for his life for 15yrs!) and he can testify that God answered when he called. More than that God delivered him from all the threats that put fear into his heart. ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles’ (vs6)! And because of this testimony David can declare that the face of those who look to God for their help – their faces are radiant (vs5).
What are you facing today? Call out to your God who answers, who delivers, who saves. Put your trust in the trustworthy ONE, so that your face may radiate on the day that God delivers you.
Angelic Help (vs7)
Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve and protect God’s children (Hebrews 1:14). David can testify to angelic protection, a heavenly body-guard for those who fear God. This reminds me of the moment in Israel’s history when Elisha’s servant feared because of the formidable Syrian army amassed around the city and the servant was afraid and Elisha prayed that God would show him the mighty heavenly host that was arrayed around them to protect them and declared to his servant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us (angels) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15-17).
Know this. God the Holy Spirit is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and God has sent an angelic body-guard to encamp around you! So, do not fear.
Taste and See (vs8)
We learn in lots of ways, from what we read or hear from others, through modelling etc but experiential learning is one of the most powerful sources of learning. David urges you and I to do as he has done – do ‘taste and see’ that God is a faithful deliverer. This is an invitation an exhortation to find out for ourselves to experience that God is good!
Such knowledge of God hewn out of the experience of everyday life is unshakable and precious! There are no short cuts but this is the exhortation of Scripture for you and I to discover for ourselves what David has discovered – God is good.
(vs1) Whole hearted thanks, gratitude expressed is the bone and marrow of the Christian life! David declares that he will give thanks to God with his whole heart. Gratitude expressed is a heart matter and a head matter in that it requires a decision of the will to express what one is grateful for.
(vs2) Gratitude is founded on remembering, recounting what has happened, recounting what God has done for you and for His people. Again, David declares that he will recount, he decides to remember and as he does, recounting leads to feeling grateful and expressing it to God in prayer and in songs of thanks!
(vs3-9) David recounts God’s interventions for His people.
(vs10) When God is thanked, God is honoured, we get perspective and our faith for the future is fortified. In this verse David declares that those who know God put their trust in Him (because He is worthy of trust) and those who have put their trust in Him can testify that God does not forsake those who trust in Him.
(vs11) So it’s appropriate to praise Him with singing, for He alone is King of kings, it’s appropriate to ‘tell among the peoples His deeds’.
(vs13-20) Emboldened by his recounting and his praise, reminded of God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel, David transitions into confidently asking God for some things which is totally appropriate since his thanksgiving has reminded Him that God is worth praying to and bring your requests to.
- Decide to recount what God has done for you, for us as a church. I challenge you to write down no less than 25 things right now that you can thank and praise God for & then take some time to do just that.
- (vs11) Why not decide to tell 1 person at least 1 of those 25 things you’ve just recounted in a way that honours God today, encourages you and them
- Having recounted and thanked God, confidently bring your requests to your Father in Heaven.
Nehemiah is a cupbearer for king Artaxerxes of Persia. His job is to taste food and wine set before the king to ensure that he dies in the kings place if there is any attempt to assassinate him by poisoning. As a foreigner in the court of the king he would not have had any position of power or influence, and would not have chatted to the king unless the king addressed him.
His job was to be happy, least they mistook sadness for poison-induced illness and quiet unless addressed.
But Nehemiah can’t hide what’s going on in his heart and in his mind, he is battling to keep up the facade of pleasantries all because his heart has been sensitised by God to the news of the ruinous state of Jerusalem.
The king can see something is wrong and so addresses Nehemiah his cupbearer; “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?” (vs2)
Nehemiah is terrified, what should he say? This is the king of the marauding captors of Israel wants to know why Nehemiah is sad, but what he is sad about is the very fact that Babylon invaded and destroyed and took Israel captive! Awkward!
Nehemiah courageously or foolishly tells king Artaxerxes the truth about what’s bugging him – probably fearing for his life as he does so. Pause, nothing happens…
Then the king says; “What are you requesting?” (vs4)
Scripture records that Nehemiah multi-tasked at this point, way before Windows & iPhones and Android.
“So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king…” (vs4-5)
Nehemiah knows how he responds now in this moment is crucial, he is still alive after being honest, maybe in this moment he might be granted some favour? Sensing the moment he cries out to God under his breath, in his mind. It might have just been; “HELP!” but Scripture indicates that this is happening as he is simultaneously replying to the kings question.
Nehemiah proceeds to converse with the king and make his bold requests known, he asks for time, for permission and for resources and for protection & favour. And importantly vs8 reports;
“And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (vs8)
Scripture acknowledges the source of the favour extended to Nehemiah as being directly linked to Nehemiah’s multi-tasked prayer!
What I have found is that it is not the length or the might of your prayer or even the faith of your prayer that matters! What really matters is the fact that you prayed, and who you prayed to!
What can you learn from this moment in Nehemiah’s life and Nehemiah’s prayer?
Do you know the feeling? There is a moment when you know what you need to do is pray, there is some form of great need that exceeds your resources or decision that outstrips your wisdom…and yet as you get down to pray you feel at a loss for words.
I love considering the great prayers of Scripture, learning from them by observing how these men and women engaged God in moments of great significance. Nehemiah hears a report of the state of Jerusalem, is reminded of the dire situation God’s people are in, under God’s judgement in a foreign nation, with the temple and the capital city in ruins. Nehemiah has no real power or position to affect any change to the situation…
But Nehemiah is in a personal relationship with the ONE who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), and so he can call out to God. As he prays we can listen in and learn from one of the greatest prayers of Scripture.
So what can we learn from this great prayer:
- Heart: great prayers come from the heart that has been moved! (vs4)
- Clarity: prayer that starts with a clear understanding of whom you’re praying to fills that prayer with faith and meaning. After all there is no point praying to someone who can’t do anything about the thing you’re praying about! (vs4)
- Character: great prayers petition God on the basis of His unchanging character and the promises He has made (vs5)
- Repentance: in prayer we allow God to reveal what’s wrong in us and we turn to Him by turning from such sin. (vs6-7)
- Scripture: great prayers quote Scripture, the infallible word of God (vs8-9)
- Requests: to pray is to make your requests known to God (vs11)
- Perspective: true prayer helps us to keep things in perspective (vs11) so that even powerful kings become just ‘this man’.
- Action: prayer is not passive, when we pray invariably God reveals next steps which we must take with faith & obedience (Nehemiah 2:1)
Meditate on this prayer of Nehemiah’s and then incorporate elements of his prayer into yours.
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
The Apostolic gift lifts local eyes from considering only the local church and personal issues to see the broader need, and in so doing the worldwide mission of Jesus remains in focus always. The apostle Paul has addressed local questions that the believers had amongst themselves, but now he calls them to join him in Jesus’ mission to the whole world.
Paul asked these young believers to pray that the gospel ‘would run and be glorified’. He is asking them to pray that the gospel would advance and that it would be honoured (3:1). The gospel advances through local churches, through preaching, through the lives of all believers living out their transformation and sharing Jesus.
What do you pray about? Only local, personal things or are you prayers about the gospel speeding ahead, spreading out all across the world. I urge you from Scripture to widen the scope of your prayers if that’s needed, to care about church planting, and the gospel’s advance reaching to all unreached people of the world.
He also asked them to pray that people would respond wholeheartedly to the gospel, that lives would be transformed (as had happened in Thessalonica) by the gospel (3:1).
2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
In Paul’s mind, gospel advance was linked to danger and oppression. So he asked them to pray that we may be delivered from wicked & evil men (3:2) and yet even as he is praying he knows, the Lord is faithful, he knows, he is confident that God will establish them and guard you against the evil one.
So he closes praying that the Lord would ‘direct their hearts’ (3:5). Only God can lead and direct us at a heart-level so that we end up loving God more and becoming more and more robust/steadfast like Jesus.
This little section starts with Paul asking them to pray, and ends with Paul praying for them! May our prayers for one another criss-cross like this, us praying for others and others praying for us – partnering in prayer knowing that prayer is the power God’s given us to open and shut doors.
What we pray for reveals what we value. In 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 we get a little insight into some of Paul’s prayer time for the believers he had to leave behind in Thessalonica. Let’s do a quick survey of the things Paul and his team were praying for and see what we can learn from what it was they were praying for…
- Paul and his team gave thanks for the Thessalonians response to the Gospel (1:2-3)
- Prayed that God might enable his team to help the Thessalonians to grow up in their faith through good teaching and leadership (3:10)
- Prayed that God would make a way through the devil’s hindering (2:18) so that they could be re-united with the Thessalonians again for their mutual encouragement (3:11)
- Prayed that the Thessalonians love would abound towards one another in the church & also about for all people (3:12)
- Prayed that the Thessalonians might be blameless on the day of Jesus’ second coming (3:13)
Prayed that they might become more and more like God (sanctified) and that they be kept blameless until the day Jesus returns (5:23-24)
In summary, incidentally through this letter we discover some of the things that really mattered to the apostle Paul when he prayed for others.
- He gave thanks to God!
- He prayed for enabling power to accomplish that which God had called him to do.
- He prayed for God’s breakthrough where things felt stuck/hindered
- He prayed for these believers to be like God, to be abounding in love
- He prayed that God would keep them safe through trials to the very end of the age.
Think about your prayers for a moment.
What things are your prayers typically characterised by if you were to do an audit?
How could you pray through some of these things that were the apostle’s prayer focus in your life and over the lives of others?
Paul and his team eventually send Timothy to Thessalonica to establish and exhort the Thessalonians in their faith in Jesus so that ‘no one would be moved by these afflictions’. (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
On his return to Paul in Athens Timothy brought back a good report of the Thessalonians faith, love and also their warm friendship and longing to meet again (1 Thessalonians 3:6).
This report comforted Paul and his team and provoked them to thanksgiving and more fervent prayer (night & day) for the Thessalonians that their faith might be firmly established.
What can we learn from this?
The Gospel forms new relationships that didn’t previously exist (1 Peter 2:10)!
Paul is worried, eager to hear news, wanted to come visit, was hindered, prayed, sent Timothy, then was relieved and prayed day and night – all for a group of people he didn’t know prior to their salvation and whom he only spent a month with. But in that time God joined their hearts and true spiritual friendship formed so that they really cared for each other.
God established a heart level partnership between Paul’s team and this church, these believers so that the church longed to see Paul and team again and they were eager to see them and hear from them and wanted to see them built up and encouraged in their faith.
God does this at an individual level when we get joined to individuals in our church who come alongside us or whom God uses us to come alongside to establish and encourage them in their faith.
God does this at a church level when we as a church have people that speak into the life of the church, pray for and care for a church that is not theirs but is a church community of faith that they care for and love.
Over the years, as Oasis, we have had many people like that who have prayed for, loved and cared for Oasis Church even though they have been from somewhere else and have only visited or been with us for a short time – God has joined them to us in partnership & prayer…
We thank God for every Frontier Year Project person who’s ever invested in the life of our church, we thank God for Craig & Shannon Botha and their investment in our church, for Ray & Sue Lowe who love Oasis, for Lois who has advocated for us for so many years and prayed continuously, for Gerry & Donna too for their love and generosity & the whole of Centre Street Church for their partnership, for Common Ground Church & GodFirst Rosebank for their exceeding generosity and the many other Advance churches that have partnered with Oasis Church, for local churches who have supported and prayed for Oasis, for the Waldron family who made us their home and carry us in their hearts…………. I know I have missed out on many but the point is made.
We have been joined together with others in partnership and prayer as a local church, it’s what we see in the New Testament and its been our experience.
May we partner with others! As individuals, may God use us to exhort and establish and encourage others in the faith, may God join our hearts in prayer and partnership for their growth and benefit, and may God keep using us more and more as a local church to plant and strengthen other local churches all over South Africa!