What do you think of, what picture do you have in mind, when you think of the word ‘prayer’? The little icon of hands folded together pointed upward. Maybe it is dinner-time prayer (in rhyme) before a meal. Maybe it is whole-body prayer, stretched out on the floor in full surrender.
I am reminded of the story of David Livingstone who was found one morning, his body in kneeling position by his bedside where he had passed from this life into heaven doing what he had spent his whole life doing. I think of the prayers of the saints who prayed the apostle Peter out of jail; then, when their prayers were made manifest in his appearance at the door, they shut the door on him in disbelief. We think of “answered” and “unanswered” prayers, “yes” and “no” prayers. We think of “talking to the ceiling” or entering into the very chambers of God’s presence. What comes to mind for you?
In Koph, the psalmist enters into communion with God. We don’t know his circumstances, but we’re given the hint that he was hounded all day long by wickedness and hunted by predators looking to do much harm. We get the idea that the psalmist walked all day long in a sea of corruption and danger. If we are serious about the reputation and holiness of our God, he gives us keener eyes to see this in our own world today. If we’re not already acclimated to the sinfulness in ourselves and in our world, such keen insight could also bring us down in sorrow, grief, fear, and despair. Some of us already have known this or are feeling it even now.
The psalmist documents his answer to the problem: unceasing prayer. All day long, “set watches” keep him on his knees. Not that we need to physically bow every time–though that is not a bad idea in theory, but our hearts are “bowed” (humbled) before Him as we come before a Holy God for counsel. Set watches, humble heart and mind, seeking the Lord’s counsel. Is this a foreign idea to us today?
Amy Carmichael had a bell tower (6:50) built so that at set times during the day, the bell would toll (a little boy or worker would have this job) and all at Dohnavur Fellowship campus would pause in their mind and heart and seek the Lord. She set aside a special little prayer room where workers could go at their appointed hour (in shifts so as not to leave any work unattended) and pray in solitude away from the ‘dust’ of the daily work.
I have thought about that. What if we had timers on our watches that alerted us to break our concentration on this world and enter in to counsel with the Lord?
Even without little timers, we can live in a moment-by-moment state of prayer. Everything we see, every decision we make, everything we read, every person we enter into conversation with, every purchase, every word we hear–all laid out before the Lord in secret and silent petition. “Lord, filter this for me and give me wisdom so that I will not sin. Let me glorify you in this reading, this hearing, this humor, this investment with your resources, this relationship, this use of my time…” How different would our lives be if we, like the psalmist, cast our very breath of life upon the Lord’s counsel and love?
The psalmist also asks for salvation. He needs not only to be saved one time for “heaven’s ticket’, but for each moment of every day. Saved from what? From the twisting of our mind toward things that do not satisfy the deepest needs. They do satisfy and that is what tricks us. The old adage, “But it works!” is not untrue.
The world’s methods of help often do work on a temporary basis. We get by. But the psalmist is looking for something more. He begins from the depth of human need and finds his answer in the Word of God, which pointed toward the promise of the Savior. Each moment, he finds rest for his mind and soul. Researchers tell us that a rested mind and soul also leads toward a rested body and good health. In the midst of great stress, he continually finds his resting place in the counsel of his God.
It must also be noted that he prays every day with the same prayer for salvation. This shows us that our stresses will not just evaporate with prayer. We live in a fallen world. Every day there are old and new stresses. We live with what is erroneously called “Unanswered Prayer”. The cancer patient looking for healing, the mother praying for her prodigal child still far, far away, the spouse praying for reunification with a former life-mate, the child praying for his divorced parents to reunite, the parent who prayed for the life of a child who has now passed away.
I am very sure from studying this passage in Koph, that the psalmist came every day with all that he was, not because he saw instant gratification in all that he prayed, but because God was his entire hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. He kept coming back to God, hour by hour, day by day, year by year, because he had seen enough and had known enough about God’s wisdom and character that prayer was is the only and most viable hope.
Of course, he wouldn’t keep coming back if all those times he had received nothing. It is important to hear the psalmist say that he found comfort, hope, peace. Somewhere, in his soul, the truth of the knowledge of God found resonance. It is just true, and his soul knew it. But he has walked long enough with God to have seen the “edges of his ways” and had come to understand just how prayers are “answered”. God always sees and hears, and this is a founding presupposition of the psalmist. He wasn’t speaking to the ceiling, but to a Person who is directly and intimately involved in his life. God answers prayer.
When I ask a question, I may receive more information in feedback than I had expected. I might hear an affirmation, or a refusal. I might hear someone say, “Hold that thought and don’t forget it. Remind me again. Because I am working that problem right now and you can’t understand it right now but you will soon. Just don’t give up on the question.” All these are answers to prayer. God answers prayer.
There is so much more to prayer than can be discussed here, but the idea of Koph is to set our minds and hearts to focus on our Lord and His counsel alone. We have a gift in prayer as we live moment-by-moment, not just on Sabbath days, not just during a quickly performed devotional, not just during the car ride to work or the meal time prayer. Be intentional about your “set watches” to develop a disciplined habit of consulting the Lord. Couple that with thorough reading of God’s Word so that our prayers are directed rightly. Meditate on what you read so you can transfer the teaching to your personal life in every area. Let your words be prayers. This is a high discipline and a convicting one.
Lord, I am ashamed when I read your psalmist’s prayers. Such foolishness enters my heart and mind from the moment I turn away from prayer to the time I turn back. My heart is wicked and is a sieve for keeping your counsel. I ask you, as the psalmist did, to save me from myself. Save me from the wiles of the evil one to harm me and dissuade me from coming to you in study or in prayer. Let the meditations of my heart and the words on my lips be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. As with Solomon, my highest request for a boon in this world is that you keep me in your wisdom and never let me be destroyed by the foolishness of my own heart. I am tempted in this world, Lord, but you are my Savior and you will keep me safe. Even more, Lord, I ask that you guide me into full service, sacrificing my own understanding and strength in exchange for yours. Motivate me to strong faith, good works and a clean and pure heart of love for all. Thank you that you keep all my prayers as precious in your sight and you will answer them in your higher wisdom and in your perfect timing. Let me never be offended in you. In the Name of the Lord Jesus, I offer myself and my prayer to you. So let it be.
© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com. Revised October 9, 2018
People Modeling Godly Prayer:
“The Power of Prayer: Missionary David Livingstone“, McLean Bible Church, Published Feb 18, 2016. (video; YouTube; 2:43). This is the link within the text. A member of this church is telling the true story that David Livingstone had recorded in his diary of the power of prayer. Unfortunately, the instruments are playing in the background, but the narration can be heard very well. Please disregard the “build” in the music.
“A Day with Amy Carmichael (EPIC: India)“, Tim Challies, published September 20, 2018, (YouTube.com; 8:00 minutes). This is the link within the text. The bell tower can be seen or heard at 1:02, 4:54-5:20, and 6:46 minutes in the video.
If you have never heard of Amy Carmichael, I hope that you will take a minute to enjoy a video of her life here: “Amy Carmichael“, Museum of the Bible, published Jan 18, 2018, YouTube.com), or a longer more comprehensive story (one hour) here: “Iain Murray – Amy Carmichael (Christian audio biography), published on May 11, 2016 (YouTube.com), and/or show the Torchlighter’s children’s animated film available at Voice of the Martyrs.
BOOKS ON PRAYER:
With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. Available on YouTube.com as a full audio version (8:25:55….yes, that is 8.5 hours! Record your breaks so you can know where to pick up each time.).
I have many more books on prayer to suggest, but why not leave me a comment and share your own favorite books and why they have been so helpful to you.