Prayer in the Psalms
It was Solomon who said, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Prov. 15:8). Although God is spirit, if he had a face he would display one of two looks when people pray. According to Prov. 15:8 God frowns in disgust when the wicked hypocritically try to manipulate him with their sacrifices. But he has a beaming, glowing smile of indescribable delight whenever his children pray. Why? It certainly isn't because he learns something from them of which he had been previously unaware. Rather, God smiles when we pray because the God of the Bible
"is the kind of God who delights most deeply not in making demands but in meeting needs. Prayer is his delight because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace. Prayer is that wonderful transaction where the wealth of God's glory is magnified and the wants of our soul are satisfied" (John Piper, Desiring God, 217).
When we pray, what do we offer God? Nothing but our need! And that is what makes him happy because it provides him with an opportunity to demonstrate the infinite resources of the riches of his grace. God issues this invitation: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble (i.e., pray to me, cry for help); I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me" (Ps. 50:15).
Let's look at some of the characteristics of prayer in the psalter as found in Psalm 5.
There are 10 things about the psalmist worthy of note.
(1) He prays - vv. 1-3
(2) He prays aloud - v. 1
If possible, it is always best to speak your prayers ("words", v. 1). It helps give both substance and shape to your prayers and helps keep your mind from wandering.
(3) He prays silently - v. 1
But sometimes it isn't possible to formulate your feelings into words. His "groaning" or "sighing" (NIV) reveals that David asks God to hear both his spoken ("words") requests and his silent ("groanings/sighs") ones. He is referring to inarticulate efforts to vocalize a situation, a sadness, fears, confusion, etc. They are silent words uttered inwardly (cf. Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Sam. 1:13). These are the whispers, sighs, unuttered longings, and silent meditations of his heart. As Spurgeon said, "Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer."
(4) He prays passionately - v. 2
"Heed the sound of my cry for help" (v. 2). Sometimes we speak, sometimes we sigh, but sometimes we cry. Whatever the shape or sound of our appeal to the Father, he hears.
(5) He prays confidently - v. 2
He prays to "my King and my God" (v. 2). He is not an alien or enemy of God. Though God is transcendent and lofty, high and lifted up, infinite in every way, he is still "my" God, says David. He is the King, ruler, potentate of all, president, premier, supreme leader, and Lord, but he is still "my" King. David is confident of a personal, intimate relation with the God and King of the universe.
David's confidence is also seen in Psalm 86, where he appeals to the character of God as grounds for his hope.
God is good (v. 5)
God is forgiving (v. 5)
God abounds in lovingkindness (v. 5,15b)
God is merciful and gracious (v. 15)
See Ps. 106:6,13-15,19-21,24-25,37-39,40-43 and compare them with vv. 44-46!! See also Ps. 107 and the four-fold refrain in vv. 4-6, 10-13, 17-19, 23-28.
God is slow to anger (v. 15b)
God is incomparably great (vv. 8-10; cf. Jer. 32:17,27)
(6) He prays habitually - v. 3
He prays "in the morning" (v. 3). "Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night" (Spurgeon).
(7) He prays with a purpose - v. 3
He says, "I will order my prayer" (v. 3). Cf. Pss. 23:5; 50:21. This word is used elsewhere of preparing a legal brief as well as preparing the sacrifice for the altar. In other words, he thinks about what he wants to say before he says it. He has a clear idea, a plan, a well-prepared agenda that he brings before God. He prays purposefully.
(8) He prays expectantly - v. 3
After praying, he "eagerly watches" (v. 3). Cf. Ps. 4:3, as well as Isa. 21:6,8; Micah 7:7; and Hab. 2:1.
"Do we not forget to watch the result of our supplications? We are like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. We sow the sed, and are too idle to seek harvest. How can we expect the Lord to open the windows of his grace, and pour us out a blessing, if we will not open the windows of expectation and look up for the promised favor?" (Spurgeon)
We pray, and then give up if the answer is not immediately forthcoming. Our expectancy is killed. Consider the approach of George Muller:
"I am now, in 1864, waiting upon God for certain blessings, for which I have daily besought Him for 19 years and 6 months, without one day's intermission. Still the full answer is not yet given concerning the conversion of certain individuals."
He refers to others for whom he has prayed anywhere from 1 to 10 years, and says,
"Yet I am daily continuing in prayer and expecting the answer. . . . Be encouraged, dear Christian friend, with fresh earnestness to give yourself to prayer, if you can only be sure that you ask for things which are for the glory of God."
(9) He prays for justice - vv. 4-6,9-10
· For us, "hate" is an evil desire for personal revenge that is the fruit of malice, vindictiveness, spite, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, or self-centeredness. For God, "hate" is a righteous opposition to anything that is an affront to holiness. It is God's holy displeasure for sins committed and a holy determination to punish.
· Notice also that although David calls for divine justice, he does not presume to stand in God's presence because of personal merit. He acknowledges that he is equally deserving of divine wrath and that it is only God's "lovingkindness" (v. 7) that accounts for his salvation.
(10) He prays with joy -vv. 11-12