Scripture Text – Psalm 119
The emphasis in this the longest psalm, and the basic theme, is on the vital ministry and practical use of the Word of God in the inner spiritual life of God’s children. It describes how the Word enables us to grow in holiness and handle the persecutions and pressures that always accompany an obedient walk of faith.
The Word of God performs many wonderful ministries in the life of the devoted believer. If we delight in His Word, learn it, treasure it within, and obey what it says, the Lord will work in us and through us to accomplish great things for His glory! Circumstances may change, but God and His Word remain the same.
Qoph – A Primer on Prayer
Please read Psalm 119:145-152 for the background to this section.
The writer prayed throughout this entire psalm, but in these verses he concentrated on prayer and cried out to God day and night. From his experience, we receive some basic instructions about successful prayer.
Pray wholeheartedly. We must seek God with our whole heart and obey Him with our whole heart. John Bunyan had stated, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” In the Old Testament sanctuary, the golden altar of incense represented intercessory prayer (Exodus 30:1–10). The special incense was burned on the altar, and the fragrant smoke rising heavenward pictured prayer going up to the Lord (Psalm 141:1–2; Revelation 8:3–4). The devotion of the heart is what “ignites” our prayers and enables us to present our requests to the Lord. The phrase “I will keep” may be translated “that I may keep.” The psalmist was not bargaining with God (“Answer my prayers and I will obey you”) but dedicating himself to God to obey Him no matter how He answers his prayers. Before we can pray as we ought, we must pray for ourselves that God will give us a heart ignited by the fire of the Spirit.
Pray without ceasing according to the Word. Two important elements of successful prayer are involved here. The first is that we constantly cultivate an attitude of prayer and remain in communion with the Lord. At morning and during the watches of the night (sunset to 10 p.m., 10–2, 2 until dawn), the psalmist prayed to the Lord. Jesus called this “abiding” (John 15:1–11). To “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) does not mean to walk around muttering prayers. It means to “keep the receiver off the hook” so that nothing comes between the Father and us.
The second element in successful prayer is the Word of God, for apart from God’s Word, we cannot know God’s will. Each verse in this section mentions the Scriptures and the writer’s devotion to God’s Word. We must balance the Word and prayer in our devotional life and ministry, for all Bible and no prayer means light without heat, but all prayer and no Bible could result in zeal without knowledge. Samuel emphasized both the Word and prayer in 1 Samuel 12:23 and so did Jesus in John 15:7. The spiritual leaders in the early church gave themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). When we meditate on the Word, the Father speaks to us, and when we pray, we speak to the Father. We need both instruction and intercession if we are to be balanced children of God.
Pray as an act of love. This verse combines both love and law, for if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments. Too often we think of prayer as an emergency measure, rushing into God’s presence and crying for help. But what would you think of children who spoke to their parents only when they needed something? Prayer is more than asking; prayer is loving. If we love the Word of God, we must also love the God of the Word and express that love to Him. To tell Him we love Him only because we want to receive something is to practice prayer on a juvenile level. When we share our love with the Lord, we receive new life from Him.
Pray with your eyes open. As he prayed, the psalmist saw his enemies drawing near, so he asked for God to draw near to help him. The familiar phrase “watch and pray” goes back to when Nehemiah was leading the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the gates. The enemy did not want the holy city to be rebuilt, so they used fear, deceit, and every kind of ruse to hinder the work. What was Nehemiah’s defense? “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” – Nehemiah 4:9. Jesus (Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:33), Paul (Colossians 4:2), and Peter (1 Peter 4:7) commanded God’s people to “watch and pray,” to be on guard and pray with intelligence and alertness. We are soldiers in a battle and we dare not go to sleep while on duty.
To Be Continued