What Makes God Smile? (Psalm 5)
Listen to Solomon's words in Proverbs 15:8 - "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him" (or,"is His delight" [NAS]).
Although God is spirit, if he had a face he would display one of two looks when people pray. This text suggests that 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 will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Ps. 50:15).
Let's look at some of the characteristics of David's prayer life as found in Psalm 5. There are ten things worthy of note.
(1) He prays (vv. 1-3). I doubt if anything was as instinctive to David as prayer. Whether in turmoil or triumph, whether in pain or prosperity, the orientation of his soul was always vertical. Nothing was off limits or too trivial. Nothing was beyond the power of God or a matter of indifference to him. When one knows God as David did, prayer will always be the first, middle, and last thing we do.
(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 requests and helps keep your mind from wandering.
(3) He prays silently (v. 1). Sometimes it isn't possible to formulate your feelings into words. His "groaning" (ESV) or "sighing" (NIV) reveals that David asks God to hear both his spoken ("words") requests and his silent ("groanings/sighs") ones. He has in mind 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). "Give attention to the sound of my cry" for help. Sometimes we speak, at other times we sigh, but on occasion all we can muster is a half-muted 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). David is no 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.
(6) He prays habitually (v. 3). "In the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch." "Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night" (Spurgeon).
(7) He prays with a purpose (v. 3). The NAS renders this, "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; NAS; cf. Ps. 4:3, Micah 7:7; and Habakkuk 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 seed, 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, I:46)
Too often 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" (cited by Piper, Desiring God, 211).
He refers to others for whom he has prayed anywhere from one to ten 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" (212).
(9) He prays for justice (vv. 4-6,9-10). Many would prefer to ignore the words, "you [God] hate all evildoers" (v. 4), as well as David's plea for God to "make them bear their guilt" and that God "let them fall by their own counsels" and that they be "cast out" "because of the abundance of their transgressions" (v. 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 "steadfast love" (v. 7) that accounts for his salvation.
(10) He prays with joy (11-12). "But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield."
Don't believe the lie that how you feel doesn't matter. We must rejoice when taking refuge in God. Singing alone won't suffice. We must sing for joy! Loving God is good, but exulting in him is even better.
It's a win-win! When we pray like this, God delivers us and we honor him (cf. Ps. 50:15).
Praying to evoke a smile,