Every word you give me is a miracle word–
how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
because nobody’s living by your book!
–Psalm 119:129-136 The Message
Reading over this passage, it seems to me I’m looking at a friend’s prayer list. You know, that slip of paper some folks keep in their wallet, their purse, or as one friend used, on the inside of the cupboard door so they could see it while doing the dishes. In a recent sermon I mentioned that you can learn a good deal about a person–their character, their purpose, their needs, their loves–by their prayers. Prayers are a window to the soul of the one praying.
Remember Hannah? My wife does. For nine long years she remembered her all too well while we waited for our Emma to come along (and now a second is well on the way!). Hannah so desperately wanted to bear a child, and she went to the One–the only One–who could help. She prayed so passionately and fervently that when a priest named Eli observed her, he thought she might be drunk. Here is how the conversation went:
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD . Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
–I Samuel 1:12-17 (NIV)
And as you can read in I Samuel, the Lord did indeed give her what she asked. It is the nature of the Father to bless His children. Jesus would later say:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
–Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)
So, being a believer that the Creator of heaven and earth not only hears, but answers prayer, what did the psalmist seek? Did he, like Joplin seek a Mercedes-Benz? Did he seek fortune and big hair like the PTL/TBN crowds? Well, let’s take a look at his prayer list:
It’s a good list, huh? Maybe you and I would be better off scrapping ours and adopting his for a while. There something at the heart of this list that I know I need, and perhaps you do, too. There is an underlying admission–confession if you will. He has come to the point of humility that can openly admit that he doesn’t know it all. It may be the central-most theme of the entire Psalm. Rather than sitting in judgment of God, as so many in our world now do, he is submitting (it’s not a dirty word!) to the God of Heaven and letting the Creator of his soul teach his soul, nourish his soul, and guide his soul.
Lord, smile on us, and teach us how to live–and live well to Your glory!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
–Philippians 4:6 (NIV)