Appealing to God for Mercy

—by Charles Chowa, CCC member

To you I call, O Lord my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

I have been reading through the Psalms and I am amazed at their richness and beauty. I am also challenged daily to grow my faith in God!

This week, Psalm 28 really put on the pressure for me to live a transparent life before the Lord. The first two verses helped me to understand that if I claim to love God so much, I must persist in appealing to him to speak to me when he is silent. Unfortunately, I seem to give up easily when my prayers go unanswered in a short period of time. Not so the psalmist!

The psalmist, king David, cries out for God to speak and answer his prayer. It can be deduced from the psalm that David had been praying for a long time without getting an answer. However, David did not give up, like I usually do. Instead he follows up with a good argument by reminding the Lord that if he remains silent, “I will be like those who go down to the pit.” I appreciated a few things from David’s example:

1.    David’s importunity: David was persistent in his prayer because he imagined himself standing at the edge of a pit, about to topple into it to certain death, and God as the only one who was nearby to hear his terrified screams for help. If I viewed my problems that way I am sure I would never give up asking for help until God answered.

2.    David’s attitude: David was not praying arrogantly or belligerently as if God owed him anything! God does not owe anyone anything. David was aware of this and so was humbly asking for mercy and help. I think subconsciously I feel that God owes me his love and therefore his help. After all, am I not his child? Have I not been joined to Jesus Christ and become an adopted son? Why then does my Father not answer my prayer right now? David, even as a man after God’s own heart, did not presume upon God’s kindness, but prayed with humility. He says in verse two, “hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help!” His attitude is that God is free to answer my prayers or to withhold his help, but I will continue begging for his mercy.

3.    The basis of David’s appeal: David says “Hear my cry for mercy…as I lift up my hands toward your most holy place.” This refers to the holy place of the tabernacle where the ark of the covenant was kept, and where the blood sacrifices were offered for the nation’s sin on the day of atonement. David’s appeal to God through the most holy place is an indication that David acknowledged that his prayers would only be answered on the basis of shed blood. David was a sinner whose sins needed to be atoned for before he could approach the Almighty! The eternal equivalent of which is the mercy seat of Jesus where we find eternal atonement for our sins.

This psalm taught me not to give up, but instead to pursue God in humility and faith. Every situation I encounter may be likened to a pit, and I need God to help me to avoid it or navigate it safely. Yes, he has made many precious promises in his word, yet his command to me is to come in humility, and persistence, asking for mercy!

Praying With the Psalms (And the High Schoolers)

Dave Stepp, Ruling Elder

How’s your prayer life? I am often intimidated and discouraged by this question; I feel like my prayers should be more eloquent, less repetitive, and somehow embody the incomparable mystery and depth of a personal relationship with the living triune God.

So where do I turn? Where are the riches of Christ to help me grow?

Historically, the Psalms have been a key resource for Christian meditation and prayer. The Psalter functioned as the Jewish common prayer book, so the Psalms also served as Jesus’ common prayer book. Psalms were read, recited, sung, and prayed. But why doesn’t this book seem to resonate with me like that? Many of them can seem critical of God and I find myself wondering if they are even appropriate prayers for a Christian. Others can seem strange, even simplistic or cold, and don’t clearly relate to Christ.

With the help of a Gospel in Life group bible study entitled, “Praying with the Psalms,” the High School Sunday School class has been learning to pray since the beginning of the summer. The key? Approaching the Psalms as something that teaches us to pray through imitation and response.

This may seem strange at first: a more vibrant prayer life through imitation? And how does that enable a rich or personal response? Think of small children and how they learn to speak. Children are spoken to by their parents first. They hear words and phrases repeated again and again, and they learn to imitate the words and phrases they have heard. Then, gradually, children acquire the capacity to respond to their parents with an answer. They start by imitating, and learn to respond.

We see this same dynamic in scripture, such as 2 Samuel 7:27 where David proclaims, “For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.” Read it carefully: God’s speech initiates and motivates David’s prayer of gratitude. Prayer is an answer to God’s revelation and promises.

Take note: this approach of being taught through imitation and response is challenging. It forces us to go “against the grain” and deal with a broad range of emotions (pain, suffering, praise and thanksgiving) when we don’t feel them personally. It forces us to deal with God as He is and trains us in conversation with theknown God, revealed through Jesus Christ, based on how He speaks to us. But, for the same reasons, it draws us close to God as we learn to answer and respond to Him.

Finally, let me offer three suggestions for you on your own journey of praying with the Psalms. First, ask a High Schooler! Our students have been studying Psalms of meditation, repentance, and sorrowing; they will be studying Psalms of petitioning and adoration later this semester; and they have learned a lot! Second, on your own, select a Psalm and imagine Jesus literally singing or praying it (consider his humanity, his deity, his humiliation, his exaltation, and the particular circumstances where the Psalm fits into his life). Third, focus on praying the Psalm to Jesus (start by praying some of the very petitions you read; then rephrase some of the statements as petitions to God so more of the prayer is in your own words; and finally move to praising, repenting, and supplication on the basis of the statements and subjects of the Psalm but in your own words). May the riches of Christ permeate deep into your heart and abound, in response, through your prayers!

Flow'rs of Earth and Buds of Heav'n

Jeremy Purvis, Ruling Elder

As summer winds down, the weather cools, and the days shorten—we have an opportunity to reflect on the beauty of God’s General Revelation. Sometimes our praise can best be captured in a song, like the famous words by the English poet, Folliott Pierpoint:
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise.
Borrowing ideas from Psalm 19, the hymnist knows that God’s love shines brightly through his creation, permeating the physical world in an unmistakable way. Our focus then narrows to the ground level of the earth, where we live out each moment of our lives:
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise.
God measures out each day and hour, setting them into motion and sustaining them by his sleepless governance. Pondering this thought, our quiet moment of reflection is interrupted by the sweet sound of approaching friends, family, or neighbors—each person bearing the stamp of God’s image:
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise.
All of this beauty is like a whisper, a clue, leading us to understand the message with more clarity. What greater purpose is behind this gift of creation? Again, like the Psalmist, Pierpoint’s hymn points us forward, reminding us that every perfect gift comes from above, and that those most special gifts—those saving gifts of mercy and grace—stand out like divine versions of our earthly ones:
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
Graces human and divine
Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
Listen to John Rutter’s wonderful modern rendition of this hymn here.