Good morning. How is everyone doing? Boy, I couldn’t attend last month due to the Christmas holidays and having to visit relatives so it feels like a long time since I have been here.
Does anyone want to share a prayer request or want to give praise to God for something?
Let’s lift up those prayer requests.
Today, I want to talk about prayer. And what better place to turn than to the man who is known as the man after God’s heart, a prayer warrior who penned dozens of psalms, a man by the name of David.
I will read from the Psalm 13 and that will be our text for today.
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.
Did you ever feel this way? God, why are you silent? You pray and you pray, but it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the walls? God, do you even hear my prayers? This is how David begins his prayer, how long, Lord, will you hide your face from me? And David is a very dramatic, passionate guy if you haven’t noticed and he prays, Lord, will you forget me FOREVER? Because it sure feels like forever. Where are you when I need you?
And because God is silent, because God is not answering, David says in v2, how long must I wrestle with my thoughts? When God is not answering, isn’t this how it feels? It’s just me and my thoughts because God appears to be absent from the conversation. I am just wrestling with myself. And it actually feels like a mental wrestling match where you have a thought, then another bigger thought comes in and slams the other thought, move out of the way, then you’re stuck on that thought for a while and it goes on and on.
And when all you have is your thoughts, things that seem small can grow into these huge enemies. And that is how David prays next in v3, he says, How long will my enemy triumph over me and then he hears the mocking voice of the enemy in v4, my enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Because this psalm is like David’s prayer journal, we don’t know exactly what he was going through at the time. But we can probably assume that this is a prayer that David prayed before he was king. In 1 Samuel, Saul is king and over time, his heart for God grows cold. Then, Saul’s pride grows. He starts enjoying hearing the praise of men than giving praise to God as he ought. And before you know it, God has rejected Saul as king.
And around the same time, this little no name shepherd boy named David comes into town. He’s just a goodie two shoe. When all the men were too afraid of a Philistine named Goliath, it was David who stepped up to the plate and he defends God’s honor in dramatic fashion by striking him in the head with a smooth stone from his slingshot.
That’s quite an entrance. And surely, Saul took notice and in fact, he became jealous and eventually decided, this David guy is a threat to my kingship so I better take him out now.
And so David has to flee for his life. He is on the run. He is hiding in caves. And perhaps he was in a cave when he prayed this prayer. You can imagine the thoughts swimming in his head. It’s dark, it’s dank, he’s cold, he’s scared, and the promise that he will one day be king seems so far away.
Why does God seem to be silent many times when we pray to him, and sometimes we find ourselves praying the same thing over and over for years?
What if God answered every one of our prayers? My 2 older boys, Timothy and Jeremiah are now old enough to know what they want. Timothy is 6 and Jeremiah is 4 and if they could have it their way and I gave them everything they wanted, what would happen? Well, they would always skip school, they would eat junk food and watch TV all day. And they’d be spoiled rotten.
So to help them learn the importance of deferred gratification and lessons like how to be thankful and not take things for granted, I had to implement a reward system.
For proper behavior, you get a reward point or a surprise. And for bad behavior, you lose a surprise. So all week they are accumulating surprise points. If when I come, they drop everything and come running and give me a kiss without me forcing them to, that’s a plus 1 surprise. If they whine or complain, that’s a minus surprise.
And then on the weekend they can exchange these surprises for a special treat — I won’t tell them what that might be and that’s why it is called a surprise. A surprise can be something like going to Starbucks and getting chocolate milk or if it’s really big like going to a friend’s bday party or visiting their cousins or walking around the block to count bugs at night, those activities costs 3 surprises. And I’m proud to say that this system is working for now. At least it works for me getting a kiss from them when I come home and I no longer have to yell at them and demand a kiss.
I know that as a parent I am trying not to spoil my kids and make them into men of character and depth.
But I hope as my kids grow up, they see me as more than a dispenser of surprises. It would be sad if Timothy as a 30 year old, he is still asking for surprises. And that’s the only time he called, to ask how many surprises he has tallied up. Because by then, a Starbucks chocolate milk will not be enough. He’ll be asking for a new car or something expensive.
By the time my son is an adult, I want to be more than a vending machine of surprises. I want to have a relationship with him of love and openness and trust.
And I think this is the secret of David’s prayer life and why he is known as a man after God’s heart. Yes, God didn’t get rid of his problems. Saul was still out to get him. David was still hiding in a cave. It still seemed impossible that David would one day be king. And yet, David could say in v5-6, I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
He had no idea when God would break his silence. And he had no guarantee that his circumstances would change anytime soon. And yet, the greatness of David lies in his prayerful trust in God. In fact, the greatness of this trust is highlighted because David could pray this way in the absence of any tangible, visible evidence.
In fact, his prayer ends with more than an affirmation of his trust in God. It ends with praise. v5 – My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for he has been good to me.
Can we all say this?
Even if nothing changes in my circumstances, even if God doesn’t answer my prayers in the way that I want, can we say, Lord, I trust you. Your love is unfailing. How do I know this — because you saved me by the blood of Jesus. The cross proves that Lord you love me in the way that I needed most. You forgave my sin, you reconciled me to God, you, Jesus, became the bridge, making it possible for me to have a relationship with God.
And that is why we can praise God and sing to the Lord, for me has been good to me.
Last year, I had many questions I asked God and I received few answers. And God seemed silent. Going into this new year, those same questions remain, but God has been teaching me that life is not about answering all of my questions. Perhaps, if he answered all of my questions, I would stop seeking him.
God wants to be more than a cosmic vending machine where I press a button and out comes an answered prayer. He is not a genie that we can rub and get what we want in life.
God wants a relationship with each of us.
And if this is his goal, more than answering our prayers, God wants us to keep seeking his face, just like David did. More than a change in our circumstances, God is teaching us that we need to hunger and thirst for more of Jesus. He is the bread of life and he who spends time with Jesus will never go hungry nor thirsty. And when we have been spending quality time with Jesus, perhaps we won’t even feel a need to ask him to answer our requests and respond to our questions.
This year, let’s trust God and let’s pray for more of His presence in our lives. Let’s pray.