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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:O LORD, Hear My Prayer!
Text:LD 45 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-09-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 43:3,4                                                                                

Hy 41:1,2,3  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – Psalm 86

Ps 86:1,2,3

Sermon – Lord’s Day 45

Ps 86:4,5,6

Hy 83:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, among the sixty-six books of the Bible, Psalms has a favourite place. It’s a much-loved part of Scripture, turned to often, and read over and over again. This is surely because the Psalms are so personal and direct. The authors give an account of their own walk with the LORD, and so sometimes there is great joy, a deep thankfulness and a quiet trust. But there’s also sorrow, and fear, and uncertainty—even an awful despair. That’s life, isn’t it? We appreciate the Psalms because they’re real. So we use these ancient words to express our own relationship with God. When our words fail us, we find help in the book of Psalms.

It’s not by accident that this happens. For it was God who gave us this precious book—God who understands that we don’t always know what to pray. He gave us the Psalms, and while we tend to think of them as songs, many of them can also be described as prayers. For example, look at the heading over Psalm 86: it’s called “A Prayer of David.”

So many of the Psalms are like records of holy conversations, shared between earth and heaven—petitions and praise sent from the child of God to God Himself, revealing the heart of a true relationship with Him. In these perfect prayers we have an example of how it should be done: you could call the book of Psalms “the school of prayer.”

During his ministry, the disciples of Jesus asked the Lord about how they could pray. “Teach us,” they said, and Jesus did—He taught them the Lord’s Prayer. But just as well He could’ve pointed them back to the Psalms, back to that “prayer book” of God’s Old Testament people. All the insight that they needed was right there.

In fact, we should realize that the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t come out of nowhere. It wasn’t some new-fangled innovation, but Jesus drew it directly from the prayers of the Old Testament. The Lord’s Prayer is an echo of how God’s people have always called on Him. In Lord’s Day 45 we start with a look at the wider landscape: What is prayer? What does God delight in when we pray? And what should we ask God for in our prayer? We find answers in Lord’s Day 45 and in Psalm 86 on this theme,

 

O LORD, hear my prayer!

  1. prayer’s address: You are my God
  2. prayer’s humility: I am poor and needy
  3. prayer’s request: Preserve my life
  4. prayer’s confidence: You will answer me

 

1) “You are my God:” Maybe you’ve sent an email before. If you have, then you know that the address has to be right. If you miss even one letter, your message won’t get where it’s supposed to go. No matter what you write in the body, the address makes all the difference! The same is true for prayer, that the address is of great importance. Where’s it going?

This is a key point, for today there are countless people who pray. Prayer is not unique to Christians—it’s practiced by the followers of many religions. And in the self-help sections of bookstores, you can find lots of books about prayer. But where are all these prayers going?   The Bible says about the gods of the nations, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear” (Ps 115:4-6). If we address our prayers to a false god, or if prayer is just talking to ourselves, then our prayers are going to get no farther than our lips.

I really doubt that any of us pray to the gods of wood or stone, gold or plastic. We know that our God alone is living and true! Yet getting the address for our prayers right is still so necessary. How do we begin? What do we say? For what is this God like, this God whom we approach at the beginning of our day, or at its close, or at one of a day’s many moments? Is He distant? Is He unpredictable? Is He deep down an unloving God, or one who is easily annoyed?

If the God whom we call upon is any of these things, then our prayers will be mostly useless. If the true God is cold and aloof, He won’t care to answer us little people on earth. If God is unpredictable, He might reply this time, but not the next time, or the time after that. If God is unloving and irritable, He might even laugh at the pathetic things that you and I struggle with every day. But if our God is kind and gracious and ready to listen, we can speak to Him with hope and trust and love.

The opening of our prayer then, says a lot. It reveals what we think of this God, and what we’re hoping for as we pray. The beginning of our prayers also hints at what kind of relationship we have with God: Are we too casual in the presence of God? Are we indifferent towards Him? Do we treat God like someone who is simply there, waiting to cater to all our needs? Or do we worship Him with our words?

The proper address is the first building-block that we need to form a good prayer. It’s also taught by the Catechism: “We must from the heart call upon the one true God only, who has revealed himself in his Word” (Q&A 117). Look up to the living God, and when you pray, think about this great God!

David shows how to do this in Psalm 86. He wrote this prayer about a time that he was in trouble. We don’t know what the exact circumstances were, but he was greatly distressed by a gang of violent enemies. Still, David knows where to look for help: to the one true God. From the first line, that’s what he does: “Bow down your ear, O LORD, and hear me” (v 1).

Let’s not read over that opening too quickly, for it’s the crucial address that he affixes to his prayer: “Hear me, O LORD.” Just who is “the LORD?” We know Him from the rest of Scripture: the LORD is Yahweh, the faithful God of the covenant. He’s the same one who made those precious promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to believers and their children today. The LORD is the one who never forsakes or abandons his people. The LORD is the one He’s joined Himself to us by a sacred oath, even in the blood of Christ. When you call on the LORD, you’re talking a God who is, by his very definition, true and faithful.

Sometimes parents warn their kids when they’re headed to the park, “Don’t talk to strangers!” Even when we get older, we can be afraid of strangers, because you never know how they’ll treat you. But God is no stranger. We’re allowed to talk to Him, because we have a relationship with Him—a covenant of love. We can go up to Him, and we have every reason to say, “Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear me.”

On that same basis, David declares boldly in verse 2, “You are my God.” Underline that little word “my,” and think of what it means for prayer. It speaks of a bond, it says there’s a connection. No, we didn’t choose God, He chose us. But in an amazing way, He’s given himself to us. And because of that, we can say it every time we pray, “In Christ, you are my God. You’re the one I look to. You’re the one who’s promised to help me.”

We’ve been saying that David prays to God, because he knows God. He knows that He’ll hear his request, and knows he’ll do something about it. For he prays: “Be merciful to me, O Lord” (v 3). David is on the edge of disaster, and as he stands there, all he can see is the LORD of mercy. It’s up to God, and what He will do.

Isn’t that always the heart of prayer? We pray, needing God’s mercy, his undeserved compassion. Sometimes we think God’s mercy is only for our times of trouble and distress; mercy is for when we’re really stuck, or for when we’ve especially messed up. But even as you start a new and ordinary day, realize the true depths of your need. We ought to pray every day: “Be merciful to me, O Lord. Help me through, whatever good comes, or evil. My God, I need you, every hour.”

And God shows mercy! For this is who God is: “You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call to you” (v 5). In awe of the LORD, David starts piling up the adverbs and the adjectives. He does it again a little later, in verse 15, where he prays, “You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” It’s like he can’t say it enough.

Do you wonder why David does this? Doesn’t God know already how great He is, so does He really need to hear it from us? He doesn’t, but God wants our praise. And He is worthy of our praise! He wants to hear it from us, because He’s so deserving of that humble, awe-inspired worship.

That’s the point of how the Lord’s Prayer begins: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your Name.” Jesus teaches us to always pray with a hallowing spirit, “Father, may your Name be sanctified, glorified and praised! In this day, in this world, and in all my life, may your power and wisdom, and goodness and righteousness and mercy shine forth!” (see Q&A 122).

How much do we do that? When we pray, how much of what we say is about the LORD and who He is? Do we pause for at least a moment, and reflect on the greatness of the one true God whom we’re approaching? Or do we skip that, keep the address as short as possible, and start uploading our long list of concerns, wishes and troubles? Do we hallow his Name?

It’s a great boost to prayer to know that you’re approaching a God who is great and holy. David rejoiced to say it: “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours” (v 8). Just saying words like that can change our outlook, for this praise inspires encouragement. Praise draws our eyes away from ourselves and our fears. Praise reminds us that we’re in the presence of the Almighty God. What do I have to worry about? Why am I troubled? He is my God, and there is none like Him!

 

2) “I am poor and needy:” Sometimes we describe a person as “needy” because they always seem to need extra attention and support. “Needy” isn’t a compliment. We wish that people could be more independent, and get along without receiving so much help. When David writes Psalm 86, he won’t hide his helplessness. He actually puts it on a banner at the beginning: “Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” (v 1).

And this isn’t about money. David was king of Israel, with great wealth, endless resources and a formidable army. But the Holy Spirit helps him see through it all, to see that at bottom, we’re hopeless and incapable. As sinners we’re too weak to resist the devil, too ignorant to discern God’s will, and too frail to endure past tomorrow: “I am poor and needy.”

If you’re poor and needy, what can you do? You can only ask for a freebie, and plead for God’s charity. And that’s not easy to pray. We tend to have a high view of ourselves, a pride that fools us into thinking we’re doing just fine: “Other people need help, not me.” But if we don’t really think we need Him, why should God answer us? Or if we don’t really consider ourselves to be that sinful, why should God forgive us?

No, whenever you pray, remind yourself of this truth, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). For any prayer to be true, it needs to be offered in a deep humility before the LORD. Whenever you offer a prayer, in whatever situation—good or bad or just normal—remind yourself of this fundamental truth. The Catechism says that this is another building-block of faithful prayer, that: “We must thoroughly know our need and misery so that we may humble ourselves before God” (Q&A 117).

Humility in prayer comes across in different ways. It comes across in our praise, as we stand in awe of God. Every once in a while it should hit us, and we should say, “Who am I, that God should think of me? Who am I, that I may call upon the LORD?” We’re sinners and mortals, lowly worms, but God is the heavenly King! In that lowliness, we glorify the LORD.

Humility in prayer is also expressed through our confession of sin. That’s the point of a the fifth petition, “Forgive us our debts.” Praying that means we don’t minimize our sin, and we don’t overlook how our sin angers the LORD. Rather, come clean with confession, and be specific about your sins, as much as you can be. We place ourselves fully in God’s hands, and we say, “For the sake of Christ’s blood, do not impute to me, wretched sinner, any of my transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to me” (Q&A 126).

And our humility before God is most obvious when we simply and truly ask for help. Like we said, we’re loathe to do this: We’re doing fine. I’ve got it sorted. I can handle this. But this is what the mighty David says, “I am needy… In the day of my trouble I will call upon you” (vv 1,7). He’s got no problem admitting that he’s in trouble: “Lord, you’re my only help. You’re my first hope, and my last hope. You’re my lifeline.”

Can we honestly echo those words? Is prayer our earliest response? When we face any challenge or trouble, great or small, is it our holy instinct to kneel and pray? Is prayer the first thing we do, when we start our day, or when we start a new task? Do we seek God’s help and direction for whatever it is that He has set before us? Or is it only later that we pray? Is it only later, when I’ve dug deep and still come up empty? Do I pray only when I’ve tried everything else?

You are needy. You need to pray. And when you pray, God gives grace. He’ll answer you. He’ll help you. For the sake of the crucified Jesus, the LORD comes near to the needy. Christ used to be rich, but for our sakes He became poor, so that we can receive all the wealth of his salvation, so that we can have free access to the treasures of God’s love! Realize your need, confess it, and then be richly satisfied in Him.

 

3) “Preserve my life:” What is David’s plea to God? Hear what he asks in verse 2; it’s a request that summarizes everything that he’ll ask for. He says to God, “Preserve my life.” Doesn’t that say it all? “Preserve my life.” In prayer we can ask God: “All that I am today, and these precious things that I have, and all the days of my future—please take care of this. Where I am in danger, guard me. Where I am lacking, provide for me. Where I am broken, please restore me!”

This isn’t a request for all sorts of extras and frills, but David asks for everything essential he needs to live. That’s a vital lesson to learn in the school of prayer: that in God’s presence we don’t have to make small and timid requests. We don’t have to bring meaningless petitions before Him. This is how the Catechism sums up the contents of our petitions. It says that when we come before God in prayer, we ought to ask for “all things we need for body and soul” (Q&A 118).

Just what are these essentials to preserving our life? Just what has God promised us? Certainly our daily bread is a part of what we can ask for. Life cannot endure without us getting proper meals and enough drink and adequate shelter. We shouldn’t assume that we’ll get any of this tomorrow, but in humility (there’s that key word again), confess that you rely on God to provide—day by day. Ask Him, “Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good” (Q&A 125).

What else is involved in guarding our life? One of David’s primary concerns in this prayer is that he would be protected from his enemies. Look at verse 14: “The proud have risen against me, and a mob of violent men have sought my life.” David has heard the rattling of the swords, and seen the evil glint in their eyes. And he knows his enemies will show no mercy. “Preserve my life, O God!”

Is this also our prayer today? Christians in this country aren’t facing violent assaults, and we don’t have mobs chasing us down the street. Yet let’s be clear: we have our enemies. In these days we see it more clearly than ever, that there are people who are pitted against true believers, people who will slander and accuse.

And they’re not just personal enemies, but as David says to God, these men “have not set you before them” (v 14). That reveals something about the character of our enemies. When it comes down to it, they’re not just against the church because of our strange views. These enemies are against the true God.

So we pray for preservation. And as we pray, we should realize that God might not keep us from harm. He might not shield us from ridicule. In fact, we know it’s going to come. Persecution is his promise. But we pray for strength to be faithful, and not to give in. We pray for courage to resist the world’s pressure. Today we pray, “Preserve my life, O LORD. Deliver me from the very powers of hell.”

That’s really the point of the sixth petition, which we hope to get to in a couple months: “Lead me not into temptation. My God, uphold me by the power of your Holy Spirit so that in this spiritual war I may not be overcome, but may always firmly resist my enemies” (see Q&A 127). That’s something to pray often: “My God, please uphold me in these days. Support me. Give me discernment, and show me legitimate ways to flee from evil.”

We pray with David, “Teach me your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth” (v 11). If your life will flourish in God’s service, then you need to know his way and will. How does God want you to treat your parents and your boss and your teachers? What is his wisdom for your weekend activities? How can you deal with this difficult relationship? We pray that God would preserve our life from the confusion of sin, from the captivity of selfishness. “Teach me your way, O LORD.” This is just like Jesus teaches in the third petition, “May I deny my own will and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good” (Q&A 124). Ask for instruction in the ways of God. If you ask, God will surely answer.

 

4) “You will answer me:” Running throughout David’s prayer in Psalm 86 is a strong current of faith. It’s so strong that he’s not even afraid to predict what God will do. This is what David knows: God will hear his prayer, and He’ll do something about it! Verse 7, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me.”

How can David be so sure? What gives him such confidence in prayer? He knows the God he’s talking to! He has started to understand what the LORD can do. David has experienced it before, and He’s read God’s promises in the Word. He knows for a fact that this God is faithful, that He’s merciful, compassionate, powerful, and ever-present.  

More than simply knowing these things in his head like a good Catechism student, David believes in this God with his heart: “Save your servant, who trusts in you” (v 2). Even if God doesn’t answer his prayer in exactly the way that David wants, God hasn’t ignored his words. Even if David finds himself at the pointy end of his enemy’s sword, he will trust in God. Even then, David trusts that God’s answer is good.

That kind of assurance is like the glue for putting together our prayers. Says the Catechism, “We must rest on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord” (Q&A 117). Beloved, if you’re praying, know this: God will never turn you away. He’ll never leave you forsaken. But He’ll come near to you in his grace, because He’s promised that in Christ.

Even if you’re disappointed by God’s answer to your prayers, you can keep praying. Even if you wonder how this bad outcome or painful disappointment fits into God’s plan for your life, commit your way to him. Even if the LORD has brought you into a miserable spot, with troubles like David (or even worse), remind yourself, again and again: “This is a God I can trust. This is a God I can keep praying to. Even in these hours of darkness, I know that He’ll hear me, because He’s given his Word in Christ.”

Let’s then pray with David, and pray with our Saviour, “Hear my prayer, O LORD! For you are my God. I am poor and needy—please preserve my life. And I know—I trust—that you will answer me. For Jesus’ sake.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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