Ep.288: Psalm 145: All Praise to the God of All.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

The Book of Psalms turns a remarkable corner at Psalm 145. Here, the poet looks away from his troubles and turns his full attention on God. In this psalm and the remaining five, the poet does not mention his enemies, nor his fear of falling into the pit, nor his struggle to believe. He is not despairing or desperate. 

Instead of cajoling God to keep his promises, he pivots to a theme of praise, focusing on God’s faithfulness and glory. 

The poet’s favorite word in Psalm 145 is “all”. Listen to all the ways he uses it: 

  The Lord is good to all
    he has compassion on all he has made.
  All your works praise you, Lord (vv. 9-10a).
     Your dominion endures through all generations (v. 13b). 
 
  The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
      faithful in all he does.
  The Lord upholds all who fall
      and lifts up all who are bowed down (vv. 13b-14).

  The Lord watches over all who love him,
      but all the wicked he will destroy (v. 20). 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, you have compassion on all you made. Look on us with compassion, as we work for you and others; as we age; as we live with sins we are unable to conquer. Look on the earth with compassion, as it adjusts to a changing climate, convulsed by typhoons and floods, earthquakes and fires. Look on the nations with compassion as democracies decay and dictators rule harshly. 

With the poet, we say, “All your works praise you, O God” (v. 9). The sun rises and sets on bright winter snow, the moon softens the night with a gentle light. Mountains tell of your greatness and plains speak of your goodness. 

With the poet, we believe:
  You are trustworthy in all you promise,
      faithful in all you do” (v. 13b).
You chart your way through history. You do not make promises in election years and discard them when you govern. You do not study opinion polls and hire spin doctors. You are God of power, light, and love. Your rule is often hidden, your kingdom a mystery. Yet you call us into relationship, and draw us into the ocean of your love.   

As the poet of this psalm says, 
   You uphold all who fall
    you lift up all who are bowed down
  The eyes of all look to you (vv. 14-15a).
We are part of that “all”. We look up to you from our routines, from our pandemic world, from the politics of church and state. Above it all we see your throne, in the news we hear rumors of your righteousness, in disasters a hint of your goodness.

    You are near to all who call on you,
      to all who call on you in truth.
    You fulfill the desires of those who fear you;
      you hear their cry and save them (vv. 18-19). 
We call on you Lord, with such truth as we know. Fulfill our desire to know you. Help us make the world an outpost of your kingdom. Make our lives rich in the imitation of you and your goodness. May our mouths ever speak your praise (v. 21a). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.287: Psalm 144: Train my Hands for War.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

In Psalm 144, the poet asks God to bless his military adventures. The psalm is framed by three sets of hands: hands that belong to the poet, to God, and to the enemy. 

Let’s look at the poet’s hands. He begins:
  Praise be to God who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle (v. 1). 

I have always liked that picture: I am God’s apprentice; he is my mentor, training my hands for the work I do. God uses whatever I hold in my hands as instruments of his purpose, though I am glad I don’t wield a sword, spear, or gun like the poet and other warriors.

When God called Moses to deliver Israel, he asked, “What’s in your hand?”  “A staff,” Moses replied. “Throw it on the ground,” said God. It became a snake. “ Pick it up by the tail,” and it became a staff again (Exo 4:2-4). The staff in my hand is a keyboard though I try not to throw it on the ground. Perhaps God looks at me as he looked at Moses, interested in what I hold in my hands, wanting to direct and participate in the tasks I undertake. 

The psalm also mentions God’s hand. The poet prays:    
    Reach down your hand from on high,
        Deliver me, rescue me (v. 7a).
The poet asks God to lend a helping hand, a hand of salvation and deliverance.

The poet needs help because his enemies’ hands are against him. He says: 
        Deliver me and rescue me
    from the mighty waters,
        from the hands of aliens
    whose mouths are full of lies
        whose right hands are deceitful (vv. 7b – 8). 

The poet’s prayer is, “Deliver me from the lying, deceitful hands of my enemies. They make war against me, God. Why don’t you help me make war against them?  Strengthen and train my hands, lend your helping hand.”

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we hear the news of our fallen world: politics, wars, and pandemics; sports, entertainment, and fashion. But the psalm brings us news of you:
  Praise be to God who trains my hands for war,
      my fingers for battle (v. 1). 

You are the God who trains our hands, our minds, and spirits in the way of life. Be our mentor. Teach us words of praise to sing above the cacophony of pandemic news. Teach us works of love to counter violence and selfishness. Teach us thoughts of mercy and peace in the midst of confusion and busyness. 

We receive your blessings on the work of our hands. Hands that prepare meals and wash dishes, that plant seeds and harvest vegetables; hands that shovel snow and plug in the car, that help the sick and needy. We raise these hands to you in praise and prayer. 

Our father, we invite you to extend your hand to us. Lend a helping hand in our work, a healing hand in our sickness, a welcoming hand when we raise our hands to you.   

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.286: Psalm 143: Lead Me on a Level Path.

Ep286_Psalm143. 

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 143 begins:
  Hear my prayer, Lord,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
  in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
  Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you (vv. 1-3). 

Frequently, in the psalms, the poets appeal to God as judge, asking him to decide in the poets’ favor and to condemn his enemies. For example, Psalm 7 says,
  Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
      according to my integrity, O Most High (v. 8). 

So why is the poet in Psalm 143 asking God not to bring him into judgment? Why isn’t he confident, like the poet in Psalm 7, that God will see his righteousness and exonerate him? 

I give the usual answer, when faced with the complexity and depth of the psalms. Those poets pray honestly and authentically whatever is on their heart and mind. It’s a come-as-you-are prayer party. No need to dress up and look respectable. When they feel they’ve been doing a good job of living according to God’s covenant with Israel, they boldly claim their righteousness, castigate God for not doing his part, and call him to uphold his end of the covenant. 

But when evil surfaces in the poets’ heart, they ask forgiveness, basing their prayer entirely on God’s mercy instead of their own righteousness. 

Let’s pray. 

Our Father, with the psalmist we pray, “Don’t judge us quickly, because no human can stand before you.” We need your help, not your judgment.
  Do not hide your face from us,
    or we will be like those who go down to the pit (v. 7). 

We do not point to  the good things we have done. We point only to your love. Accept our faltering service, our stumbling ways, and the inadequate praise we offer. Because of your love, raise us up and set us on the way of eternal life.

With the poet we pray:    
Rescue us from our enemies, Lord,
      for we hide in you (v. 9).
We are crowded and cast down by our old enemy, the devil. Our enemy, the world, is always near, inviting us to a table of Christmas without Christ, of food without thanksgiving, of pleasures without joy. The enemy within tempts us to a feast of unbelief, of cynicism and doubt, questioning whether you rule the world in love. Our God, we ask: Are the randomness and violence we see your servants or your master? 

  Teach us to do your will,
    for you are our God;
  may your good spirit
    lead us on level ground (v. 10).
Yes, Lord, make it simple for us. We do not aspire to climb a spiritual Everest. We are amateur trekkers on this journey, looking for  level and well-marked paths. Teach us the path to take, help us follow the lead of your good Spirit, keep us from stumbling. 

We are your servants, Lord, we need your protection and guidance. 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.285: Psalm 142: The Cave Dweller.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 142 follows the poet from trouble to hope, from a fainting spirit to resounding praise, from isolation to community.  

The psalm is titled “A poem of David, a prayer when he was in the cave”. It’s a psalm for when you feel like you’re stuck in a cave, crowded into a cold, dark corner; when your enemies harass and threaten, when your mind sinks slowly into depression, when you can’t pull yourself out. 

You are not alone. The poet complains,
  I have no refuge;
      no one cares for my life (v. 4b). 

The poet has no escape from his enemies, no friend who cares if he lives or dies. Let’s join the poet in praying our way out of the cave.

Our father:
  You are our refuge,
      our portion in the land of the living (v. 5). 

When we are stuck in a cave, when darkness crowds us, when enemies pursue, we turn to the simplicity of faith. You, O Lord, are our refuge, our helper, our bodyguard. You defend us from enemies, you shield us from their arrows. You protect us from their slander. 

Save us from darkness in our minds. The cold northern winter seeps into our hearts, brings bleakness and lethargy. Light up our lives with the song of the angels and the testimony of the shepherds and the light of the new-born Christ. 

Save us from darkness in our community. When we are friendless, teach us to be friendly. When discouraged, teach us hope. When overworked, teach us to rest. When others are weighed down with life, help us share their burden. 
Save us from darkness in the world. As America retreats from the role of global peacekeeper, as Russia and China expand their influence, we look for a Messiah to bear the weight of government on his shoulders, a Savior whose name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). 

With the poet we pray,
  Set us free from our prison,
      that we may praise your name.
  Let the righteous gather together
      because of your goodness to them (v. 7). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.284: Psalm 141: Fatal Attraction.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 141 says:
  Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
      keep watch over the door of my lips.
  Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
       so that I take part in wicked deeds
  along with the evildoers;
      do not let me eat their delicacies (vv. 3-4).

Don’t let me eat their delicacies? Does the poet imagine great evildoers lounging around the pool,sipping wine and sampling hors d’oeuvres? Does that lifestyle attract you? What’s more pleasant than good food and good wine in civilized company? But the poet prays, Don’t let me be drawn into their evil society.

He goes on to say,
  Let a righteous man strike me–that is a kindness;
      let him rebuke me–that is oil on my head.
  I will not refuse it,
      for my prayer is against the deeds of evildoers (v. 5). 

Let a righteous man strike me? Yes, if that’s the only way to learn wisdom. Proverbs says fools are not interested in second opinions, but it’s a wise person who searches out good advice. She welcomes news she is wrong, and listens to those who correct her. One proverb says:
      Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
         rebuke the wise and they will love you (Prov 9:8). 

In Psalm 141, the poet says, I’m ready for good advice, whether given with a stinging blow or rebuking words. It’s more important to make good decisions than to preserve my self-importance and dignity.

Let’s pray. 

Our father, with the poet, we pray against our predilection to evil.
  Guard our mouths so we don’t slip into evil speech–slandering the righteous, parading our tongues through the earth, planning evil deeds.
  Guard our hearts, for they love unkind words and unholy thoughts.
  Guard our friendships for we love the rich, the famous, and the socially competent, even when they reject you, scorn others, and plot  evil.
  Guard our appetites for we love the delicacies of Christmas–chocolates and eggnog and fruitcake and butter tarts. 

Teach us self-control in what we think and what we do. As Peter wrote, “Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Pet 4:7). 

With the poet:
  We call to you, Lord, come quickly;
      hear us when we speak.
  May our prayers be incense before you;
      may the lifting of our hands be like the evening sacrifice (vv. 1-2). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube