The Strength of Prayer; Psalm 21

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Genghis Khan knew the power of numbers. Machiavelli knew the influence of cunning duplicity, Nietzsche, the ideal of uber-man. And yet, each of them succumbed to death—the great power-destroyer and equalizer. Their influence flourished briefly, but each was eventually replaced by another power-seeking protégé. If one believed that the great minds of this earth would be able to create a perfect society, the evidence would be disheartening.

If we want to find power, if we want to know the source of strength to live our lives to the fullest possible degree, there is only One who has the faculty for that. God.

“O LORD,” addresses the psalmist, “the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give!” The psalmist was King David, the ancient Hebrew regent, and the king he refers to is himself. He was a man of faith and he knew the source of his victories in protecting the land under his care. What he may not have known clearly was his prophetic voice. He may not have sensed that his words would also describe a descendent of his that would arise a millennium later as the promised Messiah and Saviour of his own soul. Not only that, but this Psalm would also describe people like us throughout the ages who, too, have faith in God’s compassionate power on our behalf.

David observes the strength of God that comes to those who call on Him, who pray for help and hope and victory in the chaos of their everyday lives. We can insert our names into the spaces of Psalm 21:

Firstly, “You (God) have granted (us) the desire of (our) heart and have not withheld the request of (our) lips.” People of faith have this in common: we desire God first and foremost above all else. The desire of our heart is not power itself, but the One who is all-powerful. We have no designs on being uber-men ourselves, but of coming under the watch care of Christ, the God-Man. God grant that this desire will rise higher in our hearts.

Secondly, “You (God) welcomed (us) with rich blessing and placed a crown of pure gold on (our) head.” The welcome we receive when we accept God’s gift of forgiveness, is the welcome He extends to us to enter into His family. God, the King of kings, calls Himself our Father and we His sons and daughters. Pure gold crowns speak of how He now views us—as pure and spotless as His only begotten Son Jesus. No regrets haunt us.

Thirdly, “(We) asked you (God) for life, and You gave it to (us)—length of days, for ever and ever.” Death has no victory over those of us who have placed ourselves in the hands of the One who overcame death by His own sacrifice on the cross. Eternity is ours.

Fourthly, “Through the victories you (God) gave, (our) glory is great; you (God) have bestowed on (us) splendor and majesty.” What greater glory than being indwelt and empowered to become like Christ in character? God is merciful and gracious.

Fifthly, “Surely you (God) have granted (us) eternal blessings and made (us) glad with the joy of your presence.” God’s presence is the greatest strength and blessing we could ever know. Experiencing His close communion with us every moment, in every situation, accessed through prayer—aloud and in silence—is eternal blessing and joy.

For (we) trust in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High (we) will not be shaken.” His power comes to us in the form of unfailing love. Imagine that. Genghis Khan, Machiavelli, and Nietzsche missed it. It was at their disposal but they failed to take advantage of the simple strength of prayer. But we trust in the LORD. Our grand designs are not to be gods but to simply be God’s.

Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might.”

Amen.

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WHY PRAY?

1280px-Haliaeetus_leucocephalus_in_flight_over_KSC “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Why pray? To the self-confident, the powerful, those who have the world at their fingertips, indeed, there seems to be no reason to pray. They think of themselves as gods. To whom would they pray? But to those who have known what it is to be weak and weary there are at least four reasons to wait on and hope in the LORD. Good reasons.

Firstly, God provides His undying Life as a renewable resource for the heart, soul, body and mind of those of us who admit we have fallen. When we become weary of our own strivings and turn to our Creator, we find our strength renewed. “Come to me,” invites Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” The everlasting God has this to give to those who humbly apply in prayer: strength for the day and peace for the night.

Secondly, God provides a new perspective. Those who hope in the LORD “soar on wings like eagles.” From the heights of a heavenly perspective, God’s revealed purposes become the wind in our wings. Jesus modeled this benefit of prayer as He stood on the precipice of the greatest of suffering and weariness. He prayed, “not as I will, but as you will,” in deference to the Father’s plans. Great weights of suffering may frighten us with a sense of God-forsakenness, yet through prayer, the nighttime of affliction is always followed by the dawn of resurrection and hope. Just as Jesus was exalted to the highest place and given the name that is above every name, He promises we, too, through prayer, will be lifted up on eagles’ wings in the knowledge of the goodness of God’s ways.

Thirdly, those who pray gain perseverance. “They will run and not grow weary.” To do good and to keep on doing good are two different things. It is one thing to begin a good work, but only those who draw their strength from the all-powerful LORD can persevere in the task. “Since we live by the Spirit,” encourages the Apostle Paul, “let us keep in step with the Spirit…and not become weary in doing good.” Strength to persevere comes through prayerful dependence upon the resource of the Spirit of God.

Finally, humble prayer provides us with a keen alertness to the dangers and opportunities that face us day by day; “they will walk and not be faint.” Dangers abound because our enemy, the devil, prowls around looking for those he may devour. Forty days of prayer and fasting prepared Jesus to walk and not faint though the devil sorely tried to tempt Him to fall. Christ’s appetite was satisfied with prayerful dialogue with the Father. We, too, are given the resource of scripture-based prayer which Jesus used to keep from falling faint. Opportunities, too, abound to those who humbly pray – opportunities to bless and bring healing to those around us who are hurting. “This kind,” explained Jesus of the ministry of releasing people from bondage, “can come out only by prayer.” “And pray in the Spirit,” urges Paul, “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

The promise of God to give strength to the weary and to increase the power of the weak comes to those who access the simplicity of prayer. To practice and invest the gift of prayer for eternal benefit is not only a unique opportunity, it is the Christ-follower’s calling. Obedient prayer anticipates the welcome of the Father at eternity’s gate. “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!”

(Photo Credit: NASA/Gary Rothstein http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail.cfm?mediaid=29963)