Giving Thanks to God for God

Thanksgiving is a time for us to give thanks to God for all that we have. But 2020 has been a rather tough year in a number of ways, and so it is understandable if some people do not really feel much like giving thanks after all. In fact, in some ways I’m sure that many of us will be more than a bit thankful when this particular year is finally in the rear-view mirror.

But there is still much to be thankful for, even in 2020. The Bible is practically filled with exhortations calling the people of God to give thanks to Him, and nowhere is that more evident than in the book of Psalms. Psalm 136 is a great example. In fact, giving thanks to God is its main theme.

In v.1-3 the Psalmist writes,

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;” (ESV)

Three times there (and once more at the end of the Psalm in v.26) we are exhorted to give thanks to God. The rest of the Psalm goes into some detail about all of the great things that God has done both in creation itself as well as in delivering His people from their enemies. And these are all set before us as reasons to give God thanks.

But look again at v.1-3 (above). What is the very first reason the Psalmist gives us for giving thanks? It is not just what God has done for us (as important as that certainly is), but rather who God is. Why are we to give thanks to the LORD? First and foremost because “he is good,” and because “his steadfast love endures forever.” That last phrase is repeated in each and every verse (a total of 26 times!).

The great Puritan Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, puts it this way: “Give thanks to the LORD, not only because he does good, but because he is good . . . .”

That is why the Psalmist tells us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” (v.1). God is good. Do you ever just thank God because He is good? Not just because He has been so good to you (which is also a good reason to thank Him), but just because He Himself is good!

Are you not feeling all that thankful right now? Are you having a tough time giving thanks this year? It is certainly understandable, as I have said before. But may I then encourage you all the more to make it your aim to seek to know God better?

There can truly be no more important thing that you could do than that. The Bible goes so far as to say that knowing God (not just knowing about God, although it certainly includes that) is eternal life! John 17:3 says,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV)

Certainly if you know the Lord and have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, you of all people have every reason to give thanks to God. For it is in Christ that we have been given every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

Not only that, but the better that you come to know the God of creation, providence, and salvation, the more reasons you will find to give thanks in all things, even in 2020 and beyond. May we all learn to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever!

The Importance of Singing the Psalms in Worship

Faith-hope-love (Mark Jones)It should go without saying that the content of the songs that we sing in corporate worship must be biblical. In Colossians 3:16 the Apostle Paul writes,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (ESV)

And so one of the ways that we are to let the “word of Christ dwell in us richly” is not only by “teaching and admonishing one another,” but also by “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”!

Is the Word of Christ found in the songs that we sing in worship? It ought to be. (If not, we are doing each other a great disservice.) And surely one of the best ways to ensure that this is the case is to sing the Psalms. Even if you don’t hold to exclusive Psalmody (I personally do not), there is simply no good reason not to include the singing of Psalms whenever possible.

In his book, Faith. Hope. Love., Mark Jones writes,

“How many churches today regularly sing the Psalms, which are the very words of God? Some complain that so much contemporary worship is too emotional. I would argue that, in some sense, it is not emotional enough. By this I mean that much contemporary worship needs to lay aside the superficial feel-good approach in exchange for the range of emotions expressed in the Psalms that characterize the Christian life (e.g., lament, joy, thanksgiving, duress). What better way to express our love for God than to use the words he has inspired through those who have loved him?” (p.192)

Good point. The Psalms reflect a wide range of experience and emotion -the very same range of experience and emotion that we as believers are subject to in this life. The superficial happy-clappy model of worship simply does not do justice to this, and so in some sense leaves us ill-equipped to worship and serve God in all the seasons of life.

Our worship (even among Presbyterians!) ought to be more emotional, not less! And what better way to accomplish that than to incorporate the singing (not to mention the reading, praying, and preaching!) of the Psalms into our corporate worship on the Lord’s day!


Spurgeon on Writer’s Block (Psalm 51)

Treasury of DavidAs a pastor, I sometimes suffer from a kind of writer’s block when it comes to writing and preparing sermons. Oddly enough, this seems to happen more often (not less) when it involves a well-known and beloved passage of Scripture. (The 23rd Psalm, for example.)

There is something intimidating about preaching the Word of God in general, but this is even more the case when it comes to the most familiar texts.

And so it brought me a strange sense of comfort and encouragement to know that even Charles Spurgeon himself, the “prince of preachers” as he has come to be known, had the following to say about sitting down to write on Psalm 51:

“I postponed expounding it week after week, feeling more and more my inability for the work. Often I sat down to it, and rose up again without having penned a line. . . . Such a Psalm may be wept over, absorbed into the soul, and exhaled again in devotion; but commented on – ah! Where is he who having attempted it can do other than blush at his defeat?” (The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, Preface to Part 2.)

To borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

You might suppose that such texts practically preach themselves, but they can really humble a pastor (not necessarily a bad thing). So if you are a pastor, and are tasked with the regular preaching of the Word of God – take heart! (Charles Spurgeon was human too!) 🙂

And if you are a believer in Christ, pray for your pastor(s). Preaching isn’t nearly as easy as some of them make it look!

Spurgeon on Atheism


“He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar.”

These are the words of Charles Spurgeon in commenting on Psalm 19:1, which says,

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (ESV)

Creation itself, especially the heavens and the firmament (the vastness of space with the sun, moon, and stars) – basically the things that are above and beyond us – says something. In the words of Psalm 19:1 it declares something – the glory of God!

The verses that follow (Psalm 19:2-6) make it clear to us the this declaration of the glory of God is abundant (“day unto day pours out speech” – v.3), universal in its reach (“Their voice goes out through all the earth – v.4), and it requires no translator, as it has no language barrier (“There is no speech, nor are their words, whose voice is not heard” – v.3). The declaration or testimony of creation is loud and clear to all who see it.  And that testimony is not to its own glory, but to that of its Creator, God.

So anyone who looks up at the firmament (or sky) and then still calls himself an atheist is (to use Spurgeon’s phrase) branding himself as an idiot or a liar. We all know better, regardless of what we profess to believe (or disbelieve). That is how abundant and clear the testimony of creation is to the glory of its Creator. To use Paul’s words in Romans 1:20, it renders atheists (of both the philosophical and practical variety) “without excuse.”

The Urgency of the Gospel


Many of us are tempted to procrastinate when it comes to dealing with certain problems in our daily lives.  We often procrastinate knowing full well that ignoring problems and hoping that they will go away often just serves to make them even worse. Who among us can honestly say that we haven’t been there and done that a time or two?

But when it comes to eternity, procrastination can be devastating. The time that we each have in this life to settle where, how, and with whom we will spend eternity is really quite limited. Time flies, as the saying goes.  It is with good reason that the Psalmist writes,

So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, ESV)

In asking the Lord to teach us to number our days” (emphasis mine) the Psalmist shows us that numbering our days does not come naturally to us. We always seem to assume that tomorrow is somehow guaranteed to us. It is not, at least not in this life.

In his commentary in the book of Acts, Derek Thomas writes,

“Souls are lost by reason of procrastination. Awakened consciences that fail to make good their resolve to find peace with God discover that before they realize it, they have fallen even deeper into the mire of sin. Thinking that they can turn to God “at any time,” they discover that they are unable to do so.” (p.673)

He is speaking there of the example of the Roman Governor Felix in Acts chapter 24. Felix was very familiar with Christianity. In v.22 Luke writes that Felix had “a rather accurate knowledge of the Way.” Not only had he heard the gospel explained to him on numerous occasions (v.26), but he had heard it from no less  a preacher than the Apostle Paul himself!  Paul spoke to him about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (v.25). Paul did not beat around the bush.

What did Felix do with that knowledge? What was his response to the gospel of Christ? He procrastinated; he simply put it off.  As far as we know, he never repented & turned to Christ by faith.  While he was “alarmed” (v.25) by Paul’s mention of the judgment to come, he wasn’t “alarmed” enough to actually turn from his sin and turn to Christ by faith. Rather, he turned from hearing the gospel at all, telling Paul, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you” (v.26).

In other words, not now – maybe later.  He just assumed that he could put it off until later. He assumed that he would always have an “opportunity” (v.26) to hear the gospel and believe later, whenever he got around to it. How many today are of a very similar mindset?

Maybe that even describes you?

It is not without reason that the Scripture says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV).  As  the writer of Hebrews (quoting Psalm 95) warns us, Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8, ESV). Did you catch that? To “hear his voice” in the gospel of Christ and to reject it or put it off is to harden your heart. In other words, procrastination is not a neutral posture. Indecision about Jesus Christ is itself a decision, and it has consequences.

As the example of Felix serves to demonstrate, hearing the gospel is not enough. Hearing it numerous times is not enough. Being familiar with the faith is not enough. Even being alarmed at the thought of the judgment to come is not enough if it does not lead to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.

If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, turn to Him by faith while there is yet time.  Today, if you hear His voice in the gospel, do not harden your heart by indecision and procrastination. Come to Him and have life that is abundant (John 10:10) and eternal (John 17:3). As the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21,

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Don’t just fear the coming judgment –be delivered from it by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! Be reconciled to God in Him!

Putting Us In Our Place

Galaxy 2

There is a line from an old Eagles song that, sadly, is a good description of the majority of mankind:

You can see the stars and still not see the light.

A look up at the stars at night really should enlighten us.  It can serve as a cure for spiritual myopia.   How so?  By putting us in our place.

First & foremost, it puts us in our place by reminding us of the greatness & glory of God!  Psalm 19:1-4 says,

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

So the heavens declare the glory of God; they proclaim His greatness & majesty!  And that declaration is loud and clear in every place, in every tongue, at all times.  So the heavens above us should serve as a constant (and often needed!) reminder of the greatness & majesty of God.

Second, by reminding us of the greatness and majesty of God, the heavens also put us in our place by reminding us of our smallness and insignificance in comparison.   Psalm 8:3-4 says,

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

What is man indeed! The world doesn’t revolve around us; we are not the center of the universe – God is!  The heavens are the Lord’s heavens (“your heavens” – v.3) – they were created by Him and for Him alone!

Think about just how big the known universe is.  Some estimate that there are around 10 sextillion stars in the universe.  (If you are anything like me, you never even knew that such a number existed.)  A sextillion is 10 to the 21st power, or a million trillion.  It is difficult to even fathom such a number.  It might as well be infinity.

So there are around 10 million trillion stars in the universe, many of which are far larger than our own sun!  Our sun is approximately 333,000 times larger than  the mass of the earth.  Is your head spinning yet?

How much matter exists in the universe?  To us any number that we could hope to assign to such a question would stagger the mind – again, it might as well be infinite!  And yet God simply spoke it all into existence!  Psalm 8:3 calls all of that the work of his “fingers” (!).

To say that God is big and we are small is a good start, even if a massive understatement.  The universe dwarfs us, and God dwarfs the universe, so we are really just a speck on a speck in the grand scheme of things.

Third, by reminding us of the greatness and majesty of God, as well as our smallness and insignificance in comparison, they also remind us of the amazing goodness of God toward us.  Why should the God who spoke the entire universe into being take any notice of us?  But He does!

Psalm 8:5-8 tells us that God has bestowed great honor upon mankind:

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
        and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
        you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
        and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
        whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

God made mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27).  That is a staggering honor that is ours despite our relative smallness and insignificance in relation to the rest of the universe, (much less in comparison to God)!

But wait, there’s more!  We are not just specks on a speck, but rebellious & sinful specks on a speck!  The Fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3) has marred the image of God in mankind (even if it has not completely obliterated it).  And yet God still cares for us!

And last (but by no means least), it should serve to make us magnify the grace of God toward sinners that is found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ!  For Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 8.

The writer of the book of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 and tells us that it was actually prophetic of the incarnation, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ!  In other words, it is about the gospel! (And it was written about 1,000 years before the time of Christ!)

Hebrews 2:5-9 says:

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For us, being made a little lower than the heavenly beings is an honor, but for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, it was an act of infinite humility and grace!  He was made man that He might suffer death for our sakes, so that we might have life in Him.

He allowed Himself to be put in our place, so that He could die the death that we deserved for our sin & rebellion, and so that we could have His righteousness accounted to us by faith!  Because He was put in our place, we can, in Him, be adopted as the children of God!

So look up at the night sky tonight.  And when you do, don’t miss the light!  Be reminded of the greatness of God, as well as His amazing grace toward you in Jesus Christ!

Abandoned By God? (Psalm 6)


The Westminster Confession of Faith (which is the statement of our beliefs as a church and as a denomination), includes an entire chapter on the subject of Providence. What is Providence? (Good question.) Providence is the biblical teaching that God preserves and governs all His creatures, and all their actions.1

In other words, the most holy, wise, and powerful God is sovereignly in control of all things. All things. That means that He is in control over the big things in life & history (like hurricanes and national elections!), as well as little things, like when a single sparrow falls to the ground or the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-30). All means all.

And that can and should be a very comforting thought to believers, right? When life gets hard and times get tough, we can rest assured that God knows what He is doing . . . even if we don’t.

But it doesn’t always feel so reassuring, does it? Sometimes we come face to face with a hard Providence. Sometimes our circumstances or our struggles with sin make it feel like God is against us. Or maybe like He has abandoned us. Have you ever felt like that?

You might be surprised to know that our Confession’s chapter on Providence actually deals with things like that! (Who says that the Westminster Standards are less personal or pastoral than the Heidelberg Catechism!) In Westminster Confession chapter 5 it says,

“The most wise, righteous, and gracious God does oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.”

If you have ever felt that way, you are not alone. In fact, you are in very good company. No less than King David (the man after God’s own heart – 1 Samuel 13:14) felt like that on more than one occasion. And not only did he feel that way, but he actually wrote songs – including Psalm 6 – so that we might sing our way back to the light at the end of the tunnel. This Psalm is a spiritual compass of sorts, helping weary pilgrims find our way back to God.

David’s Problem

What caused David to feel this way? The Psalm does not really tell us. Some have categorized this Psalm as a Psalm of penitence or repentance, while others consider it a lament. David does not confess any specific sins here, but he does speak of God rebuking or disciplining him (v.1), so David has a clear sense of his sin.

He also speaks of what seems to be physical danger in v.4 (“deliver my life [or soul]”) and v.5 (“in death there is no remembrance of You”). He also speaks of his “foes” (v.7) and “enemies” (v.10). So whatever it was, there was a lot going on in David’s life. He was feeling overwhelmed and abandoned. It is probably better for us that we do not know exactly why he felt this way, so that we can better identify with him in his state of mind.

What are some of the ways that his troubles affected David? He said that he was “languishing” (v.2). His trouble affected him:

      1. Deeply and even Physically (“my bones are troubled” – v.2)
      2. Spiritually (“My soul is greatly troubled” – v.3)
        • “Soul-trouble is the very soul of trouble. It matters not that the bones shake if the soul be firm, but when the soul itself is also sore vexed this is agony indeed.” (Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, p.57)
      1. Emotionally (“every night I flood my bed with tears” – v.6)
      2. He lost sleep (tears flooded his “bed” and drenched his “couch” – v.6).
      3. His troubles completely wiped him out (“I am weary with my moaning” – v.6).
      4. He could not see any light at the end of the tunnel.
        • My eye wastes away because of grief” (v.7).
        • every night I flood my bed with tears” (v.6).
        • This must have gone on for a long time! (“But You, O LORD – how long? – v.3)

David’s Prayer

How did David respond to his feeling as if he had been abandoned by God? He did something counter-intuitive. He prayed. When we feel like God is distant, probably the last thing we feel like doing is praying. But David prayed, and so should we.

And praying is really the only thing left for us to do, isn’t it? Why? Because no matter what the situation or circumstances are that we are dealing with, the ultimate problem isn’t in our circumstances.  Our problem is that feeling or sense that God is not with us.  Notice that David uses the word “LORD” 8 times here in this relatively short Psalm (10 verses).  God Himself was clearly David’s chief concern.

So what was David’s request? He asks a number of things from the LORD, but it all boils down to one thing that he asks of Him in v.4 – Turn, O LORD.” The Hebrew word is shuv, and it means to turn around or return. He is asking God to return to him. We can endure all kinds of things as long as we know that our heavenly Father is watching over us and smiling upon us. As Charles Spurgeon writes,

As God’s absence was the main cause of his misery, so his return would be enough to deliver him from his trouble.2

Notice that David does not ask not to be chastened or disciplined. He asks that God not rebuke him in His anger or discipline him in his wrath (v.1). Rebuke and discipline are not signs of a lack of fatherly love. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Hebrews 12:5-6 says,

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines
the one he loves,
and chastises
every son whom he receives.”

So discipline is not a sign that something is wrong – just the opposite! It means that we really are God’s children.

And look at how David makes makes his appeal to God – not on the basis of his own rightness or righteousness; not on the basis of his privileged position as King, but only on the basis of mercy. In v.4 he says, “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.” Just like in Psalm 5:7 he pleads God’s own chesed or covenant faithfulness back to Him. God’s grace and love.

David’s Praise

There is what appears to us as a pretty sudden change starting in v.8. For the first 7 verses David is languishing (v.2) and crying a river (v.6). He was at the end of his rope. But then in v.8 he is suddenly a man of God who is full of confidence again! Why? He now knows that the LORD has heard his weeping (v.8), his prayer, and his plea (v.9).

Not only that, but he tells his enemies to depart from him because the LORD has heard his prayer (v.8). So the LORD had returned to David, and because He had returned to David, David says that his enemies “shall be ashamed and greatly troubled” (same phrase he used of himself back in v.3!). Not only that, but because the LORD had returned (shuv) to David, David’s enemies would be ‘turned back’ (shuv) and “put to shame in a moment” (v.10). Quite the turnaround!

The turnaround is so sudden that it has led some critics to question the unity or integrity of the Psalm. But they just don’t understand what is happening here. Tremper Longman explains:

It sometimes appears that the psalmist changed his negative feelings to positive ones in a brief moment, but this isn’t how it happened. The Psalms compress time in such a way that what was a long process appears as a sudden insight. Honest emotional struggle stands behind the Psalms.3

So David’s trial was not brief, and his turnaround was not sudden. But this Psalm encapsulates his struggle for us, so that we might have encouragement in our trials.

Was David ever really abandoned by God? And if we are in Christ by faith, are we ever really abandoned by God? No. At times it may feel that way. At times our heavenly Father may withdraw the light of His countenance4, but He does not truly turn His back on us. Hebrews 13:5-6 tells us,

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

God Himself has told us that He will never truly turn His back on us. He does not abandon His children or leave us as orphans.

Why is it that we can know that He will never leave us or forsake sinners us? Because on the Cross He turned His back on His only-begotten Son, the Son of David, Jesus Christ. We never truly go through the ultimate “dark night of the soul” because Jesus did so in our place. Matthew 27:45-46 says,

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus was “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3), because He bore our sins and sorrows on the Cross. Jesus took upon himself the wrath and abandonment that we deserve because of our sins, so that we might know forgiveness, steadfast love, and adoption as sons in Him.

Jesus was forsaken by His Father on the Cross, so that we could know that no matter what we are faced with in this life, God never truly leaves or forsakes us. So when we suffer, we cry and we pray. And we pray for our heavenly Father to turn the light of His face back upon us because of His steadfast love toward us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

1The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11

2The Treasury of David, p.57

3How To Read The Psalms, p.81

4The Westminster Confession of Faith, 18.4

The Theology of the Psalms (Total Depravity)

What is total (or radical) depravity?  The Westminster Confession of Faith describes it as being “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil” (VI. 4).  That is quite a dire & drastic picture of all humanity in Adam, isn’t it?

In Romans 3:10-18 Paul plainly asserts the doctrine of total depravity.  He paints an equally drastic & dire picture:

 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

He is quoting the Old Testament in order to prove his case.  And what part of the Old Testament does he quote from the most here? – the Psalms!

He quotes from the following Psalms (although not in this order): 5 (v.9), 10 (v.7), 14 (v.1-3), 36 (v.1), 53 (v.1-3), and 140 (v.3).

Think about that next time you are reading (or singing!) the Psalms.  There is truly a depth of theology in the Psalms that many of us often fail to appreciate.

A King’s Prayer to the King of Kings (Psalm 5)

Psalm 5 is essentially a prayer of King David.  There is a lot that we can learn about prayer from David.

How does King David define or describe prayer (his own prayer life!) for us in Psalm 5?   Here are some of the different words that David uses to describe prayer in v.1-3:

Words, groaning/meditation (v.1), the voice of his cry (v.2), God hearing David’s voice (v.3).

So some prayer is audible, some prayer is not; some prayer is inarticulate or unintelligible (but not to God!). Some prayer is calm and measured, some prayer is literally crying out to God.

Prayer (even biblical prayer) comes in all shapes & sizes, just like our frame of heart & mind, which often changes, depending on our circumstances in life.

How did King David pray? He did three (3) things that we should take to heart & imitate:

First, David prayed.  (It may sound redundant to start there, but how often do we simply fail to pray?)  And he did so early in the morning (v.3) – as if he could not wait to pray!  Do we start our days with prayer? (How different our days might be if we did!)

Second, David prepared. David’s phrase in v.3 is translated in various ways.

ESV: “in the morning I prepare [a sacrifice] for You” (v.3).

NASB: “in the morning I order [my prayer] to you” (v.3).

In the Hebrew text, David basically does not say specifically what he prepared.  The word is often used in the context of preparing to offer a sacrifice, hence the ESV’s rendering.  In this case I am convinced that the NASB’s rendering fits the context slightly better.  He could be preparing to pray or preparing by praying (or both)!

Third, David watched.   How do you know if you believe God will answer? You watch for His answer!”

Maybe this is why the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that prayer is “the most important part of the thankfulness that God requires of us” (Q.116). You can only give thanks if you are watching for and noticing God’s answer to prayer!

The Power of the Psalms

A few notes about the Psalms in general:

First, the Psalms are realistic. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Psalms frankly recognize that even for believers this life is simply not always happiness and joy. We live in a sin-sick world. And because we live in a sin-sick world, there is often misery, mourning, tears and death mixed in with our joys, happiness, smiles and life. The Psalms don’t ignore that reality.

Second, the Psalms are honest. And they help us to deal with where we really are, no matter where we happen to be in our pilgrimage. There is no pretense, no ‘putting on a good face’ for church. The Psalms deal with the whole spectrum of the Christian experience. They deal with everything from the highest mountain-top experience to the lowest and the darkest valley that you will ever pass through. We can worship even in the valleys, and the Psalms help us to do just that.

Third, because they are realistic and honest, the Psalms are helpful to us, no matter where we may be. They are able to deal with us where we are, so they can bring us back to where we need to be. Writing of David’s Psalms, Charles Spurgeon says,

David’s heart was more often out of tune than his harp. He begins many of his Psalms sighing, and ends them singing. (The Treasury of David, Vol.1, p.153)

So the Psalms were helpful to their writers (of whom David was one), and they can help us as well.  Our hearts get out of tune far more often than we realize, and the Psalms help us to tune our hearts to God’s praise.

They put theology in the form of poetry or song, and so help us to get our theology into our hearts, and not just in our heads.  And who among us doesn’t need help doing that?

Never underestimate the power of the Psalms.