Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31 Sermon Title: Merciful Lord (part 4) Sermon Text: Psalm 119 Memory Verse: Isaiah 40:25 MAIN IDEA: Pray that the Lord mercifully establishes us in His Word so that we may be blessed.
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Praying According to Psalm 119
Psalm 119 teaches us about prayer. It is a prayer written by a man who identifies himself as a servant of God. The servant needs his Master’s help. He has many persecutors and adversaries who seek to harm him (v. 157). Even men in important position, princes, are involved in the conspiracy (v. 23, 161). They persecute him with a lie (v. 86), and the lie brings him reproach and shame. His wicked adversaries encircle him, waiting to destroy him (v. 51, 61, 95, 110, 150).
His heart is sick. His soul cleaves to the dust (v. 25), and he weeps with grief (v. 28). He feels as a wineskin in the smoke (v. 83).
The psalmist places his trust in God being faithful to do what He says in His Word. He says, “Sustain me according to Your Word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope” (v. 116). Let my supplication (my request) come before You; deliver me according to Your word (v. 170).
Like the psalmist, we may trust God to deliver us and help us in our time of need.
The servant is telling God, “Your Word says that You promise deliverance to those who fear You. You are a God of mercy and Your Word is truth. Therefore, I trust You, Lord, to deliver me and to be merciful to me. Please, don’t destroy my hope by not following through on Your promises.”
Like the psalmist, we may trust God to be faithful to His word of truth.
As he prays, the servant tells God how much he loves His word. He seeks God’s word because he seeks God. He repeatedly expresses his commitment to obey God’s Word. He is presenting evidence as to why God should help him. He is a servant wanting to do God’s bidding. He is partaking in the will of God. Therefore, God should help him.
He knows what he asks is according to God’s will. The aim of his prayer is that he will accomplish God’s purpose. His prayer seeks God’s Kingdom and for God’s will to be done. He asks for comfort, but comfort according to God’s Word. He is asking for help, but help which is in line with God’s Word. He is not seeking personal comfort and convenience, but he is seeking God’s glory.
Like the psalmist, we may know when we are seeking God’s word we are seeking God. We may know that when we seek to obey God’s word, God rewards our obedience. When God’s glory is the aim of our prayer, we may have confidence in our request.
The content of the psalm prayer teaches about spiritual maturity and prayer. The servant prays God’s will. He asks God to teach him God’s so he understands what God is doing. He asks God to help him obey and keep God’s word knowing it brings blessing. He is sorrowful, so he asks God to revive him and give him strength. Lastly, the servant asks God to bring justice to his situation.
Like the psalmist, we may ask God to help us to understand His word and incline our heart to obey His commands. We may not understand or obey without God’s intervention. We may ask God to revive and strengthen us, so we do not grow weary in doing good. We may ask God for justice and for God’s kingdom to come.
The servant of God expects an outcome to his prayer. His prayers ask God for what is best. His prayer requests seek beyond his physical circumstances, and he prays for intangible spiritual outcomes. He prays for his spiritual needs over his physical needs. He prays expecting that, as an outcome of his prayer, he will keep God’s word. He expects God’s answer to his prayer will be a life filled with liberty and freedom, satisfying worship, and a life of perfect fulfillment and joy.
Like the psalmist, we may know the outcome of our prayers will give us a life of liberty and freedom and joy in obeying and serving God. The outcome of a God-centered, word-saturated prayer is that we will be filled with satisfying worship of a great God who is mighty to save and who meets our deepest needs for joy, peace and happiness.
Psalm 119 teaches us how to pray in a wonderfully satisfying way. In following the pattern of the prayer found in Psalm 119, we pray effectively, and we pray for what is the best possible outcome to any situation we may encounter.
Pray to A Merciful God
There is one more thing about prayer the prayer in Psalm 119 that we should know. We have saved the best and most important aspect of Psalm 119 for last. We now turn our attention to the main subject of Psalm 119.
Most Christians believe the main subject of Psalm 119 is God’s Word because it is mentioned in all 176 verses. God’s Word is not the most spoken about subject of Psalm 119. God is mentioned almost twice as many times as God’s Word.
It is not immediately noticeable because God is referred to primarily with personal pronouns. When we include all the personal pronouns, God is mentioned in the Psalm 279 times. When we consider the Word is God’s book, that He is the Author, clearly Psalm 119 is about God.
The most important aspect of our prayer is Who we pray to. The content and the expected outcome of our prayer is important. But, most importantly, we need to see that the psalmist cries out to a God who is able and willing to help. He calls out to a loving, merciful, almighty, all-knowing God and says, “Please, help me!” Prayer is important because of who we turn to in our time of need.
Attributes of God inspiring us to pray to Him
As we read through the psalm, it is helpful for us to know how the psalmist knows God. He mentions specific attributes of God which inspire His prayer. It is not important that the psalmist prays to God, but that the psalmist knows the God to who he prays.
Let’s look at what the psalmist says about the God he knows.
God is Lord
The first attribute of God we need to see is that that the psalmist knows God is Lord. In praying to God, the servant of God knows his relationship. He doesn’t go to God demanding for God to answer his prayer. Instead, he humbly recognizes that God is Lord and he is God’s servant.
The psalmist knows his relationship to God from God’s word. God reveals who He is and who we are and how our relationship is vital for our understanding the right attitude and posture for going to God in prayer.
He writes: 4 You have ordained Your precepts, that we should keep them diligently.
When we pray, we need to pray with humility knowing God explicitly commands us to obey His precepts, statutes, and ordinances. He approaches God as one who is a servant created to obey his Lord.
Not only does the psalmist know that he is to obey God, but he proclaims that all of creation is to obey God. All things are created by God, including the stars, planets, the earth, and all they contains. All things exist according to God' ordinances. God established (v. 90) all things and the reason God creates everything is that all things exist to serve God. He says, “all things are Your servants” (v. 91).
We need to know our relationship to God in our prayers. Our prayers are spoken to God who is our Lord, and we are His servant. It is imperative we approach God humbly, knowing our place. As servants, we do not make demands. We ask God for help, not tell God to help. As servants, God is not our vending machine in the sky. We are to pray recognizing that God is our Creator, his hands made us and fashioned us (v. 73), and we are created to serve and obey Him.
God is Good
As we pray, we pray knowing our Lord is good. When Jesus was referred to as a good teacher, He responded by asking, “Why do you call me good, only God is good.” Jesus recognizes the title of good teacher is a title only God deserves.
The psalmist repeatedly calls God good. He says: 12 Blessed are You, O Lord … 68 You are good and do good … 64 The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O Lord; … 129 Your testimonies are wonderful … 151 You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. 156 Great are Your mercies, O Lord …
God is good and everything He does is good. We see that in the creation account in Genesis. All which the works of God’s hands, God declares as being good.
It is impossible for God to do anything but good. In Africa, there is a saying and a response by those who hear. One person says, “God is good” and, whenever people hear that saying, they respond with, “All the time” then, it is said, “All the time” which is responded with, “God is good.”
As we see things at face value, it doesn’t look good all the time. For instance, as we read about the flood in Genesis, the plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus or about the pouring out of God’s wrath in the book of Revelation, it doesn’t appear that God is good. But, because we have insight into God’s will, we may know that these acts of God are good.
The killing of an innocent man on the cross does not look good. But, we know, God the spilling of the blood of Christ is good.
God is the definition of good. God defines good and good defines God.
What a great comfort we have in knowing that when we pray to our Lord that He is a good Lord. He is not a Lord who will seek ill-will toward His servants. We may pray expecting that every answer to our prayer will always be good for us.
The psalmist repeatedly speaks of God’s righteousness. God is right. He is never wrong. The psalmist writes: 137 Righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments. 138 You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness. 140 Your word is very pure ... 142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. 144 Your testimonies are righteous forever … 160 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. 172 … for all Your commandments are righteousness.
As humans, we sometimes do what we think is good, but it may not always be right. We sometimes believe we know what is a good answer to the problems we face. But, we don’t know. We are not all-knowing, but God is all-knowing.
We don’t always understand how not answering a prayer for healing may be right. We may not understand how God’s answer for a job, or for a friend may not be the right answer. God’s ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts. God’s view of life is different than our view.
God always does what is good and the good God does is always right. We may never worry that God’s answers to our prayers will turn out to be the wrong answer. God will always answer our prayers by doing what is right.
The psalmist speaks of God’s faithfulness. This means God is always true to His word. 90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations … 86 All Your commandments are faithful … 138 You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness.
God is devoted to His glory. God is reliable and constant. He is the only immutable, fixed, and unchanging force in this universe of change.
Sometimes it may not seem to us that God is faithful towards us. Sometimes it feels like we are getting the short end of the stick. Sometimes it feels like God forgot who we are. Sometimes it feels like our prayers hit the ceiling. Sometimes it feels like God doesn’t hear us or God doesn’t know about our circumstances.
Life is hard. We all face challenges and difficulties. But, we need to remember that in our challenges and difficulties God is unwavering in His commitment to bring good to those who love Him and are called by His name.
The psalmist says this: 75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
The psalmist knows that God is good, His judgments are right, and even though God brings afflictions and allows them to happen in his life, that in doing so, God is faithful. Everything God does is authentic. He is completely dependable. We need not worry that God will deviate from His plan or His character. God is unwavering in His commitments.
We may know that our prayer requests, which are part of God’s glorious plan, that all the answers God gives are faithful to God’s purposes and plan.
Think for a moment about God’s purpose and plan. God plans that we be with Him in His glorious kingdom. God plans that we are together alive, risen, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We may rejoice in knowing God is faithful. He is forever faithful in loving us. Even though we are unfaithful to God, God will always be faithful to us.
Our prayers go before the throne of a faithful, loving Lord. God hears our words and our cries to Him, and God is faithful to respond in our favor.
Another attribute of God known by the psalmist is that God is abounding in truth. He says: 142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. 151 You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. 160 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
Nothing is more important than truth. We don’t want to be told lies, but we want to know the truth. Truth is all that is real. Truth is certainty. We may put our lives on the line knowing God’s word is truth.
The world is filled with falsehood. We hear fake news and false stories in the media. We all want the truth to be told. God’s answers to our prayers will be answers based on truth. God will never lie to us nor sugar-coat reality, so it appears differently. We may know that when we pray according to God’s word, we pray the truth. When we are told by our Lord to obey His commands, we may know His commands are not some trick to deceive us.
When we look to other places to have our needs met, we may not know if they are giving us true or false promises of help. Many other sources of help are not always trustworthy. Know God is true. Pray and ask God for help because God’s word promises certainty without falsehood.
The psalmist speaks of God’s eternal faithfulness. 89 Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.
As we pray the Word, we can have the confidence of knowing it will never fade away. The earth may fade away, but God’s word is settled forever. 90 Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations
The psalmist knows God is faithful to him and his children. God continues to be faithful to every generation since the time the psalm is written. What an immense joy knowing God will be faithful to our children’s children. We may boldly proclaim to our children that there will always be someone to help them in their time of need. We may be long gone, but God is faithful. 142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness … 144 Your testimonies are righteous forever … 160 … every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
God’s righteousness and His testimonies are righteous forever. We need not worry that God will become and wicked, unrighteous God in the future. After we are in heaven for 10,000 years, God will still be righteous, faithful, good, and loving.
We may know with great confidence that the only reliable, faithful, and worthwhile source of help in our time of need is our Lord. God is all-powerful so nothing may stand in His way of helping. He is all-knowing, so He understands our need and can provide the best solution. God is good and loving, so we may trust that His help has our best interest in mind. God is mighty to save.
We need to have complete dependence upon God. God must be our only hope. We are to cry out to the One who proves to be merciful and say, “Have mercy on me.” We are to cry out to God the redeemer and deliverer of His people and plead, “Save me.” God is trustworthy to deliver.
It is important for us to know the character of God. When we know the God of the Bible, we know God is loving, good, faithful and full of mercy. We know God is faithful to His word. We know God’s response to our prayer is always true and pure. We know we may depend on God today, tomorrow, and forever.
The most important aspect of our prayer is not what we pray; although, what we pray is very important. The most important aspect of prayer is not what happens as a result; although, the outcome of our prayer is also vitally important. The most important aspect of prayer is the One to whom we pray.
Pray to the God of Scripture. Pray knowing He promises to help in our time of need. Pray knowing the answer to our prayer is for our good.
Jesus died so we may pray to a good, loving, faithful, eternal God.