Good afternoon brother and sisters….
Psalm 86 is one of the finest examples of how to pray boldly and in great confidence to be found anywhere in Scripture. Most of us are aware that the book of Psalms was ancient Israel’s hymnbook. But what is not as well known or understood is that the book of Psalms also very much a prayer book.
As such Psalm 86 has this title affixed to it: A Prayer of David. In this prayer David has no qualms about making numerous requests of Yahweh. Making use of the ESV translation, at least the following petitions can be identified.
· Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me. v. 1, 6
· Preserve my life. v.1
· Save Your servant. v.2
· Be gracious to me, O Lord. v.3
· Gladden the heart of Your servant. v. 4
· Listen to my plea for grace. v.6
· Teach me Your way, O Lord. v.11
· Unite my heart to fear Your name. v. 11
· Turn to me and be gracious to me. v.16
· Give strength to Your servant. v.16
· Save the son of Your maid servant. v.16
· Show me a sign of Your favor. v.17
Throughout the body this prayer, David identifies numerous reasons for his boldness in prayer. Those would include:
· You are my God. v.2
· You, O Lord, are good and forgiving. v.5a
· You, O Lord, abound in steadfast love to all who call upon You. v.5b
· For you answer me. v.7.
· There is none like You among the gods, O Lord. v.8
· You are great and do wondrous things. v.10a
· You alone are God. v.10b
· Great is Your steadfast love toward me. v.13a
· You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. v.13b
· You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. v.15
· You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. v. 17
As I reflected on this prayer of David, I was reminded of the beautiful hymn by John Newton, “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare.” While the entire him is chock-full of meaty doctrine, the first two stanzas have bearing on why we, like David of old, can pray boldly and with great confidence.
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
he himself has bid thee pray,
therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring;
for his grace and pow’r are such,
none can ever ask too much.
With my burden I begin:
“Lord, remove this load of sin;
let thy blood, for sinners spilt,
set my conscience free from guilt.
“Lord, I come to thee for rest,
take possession of my breast;
there thy blood-bought right maintain,
and without a rival reign.
“While I am a pilgrim here,
let thy love my spirit cheer;
as my guide, my guard, my friend,
lead me to my journey’s end.
“Show me what I have to do,
ev’ry hour my strength renew:
let me live a life of faith,
let me die thy people’s death.”
And then I came across this wonderful analysis of Newton’s hymn.
This hymn is an incitement to pray boldly. Its opening line is one of the finest in all hymnody. Am I to sue God?! Exactly. He made promises, and I am going to remind him of them. He has bid me appear before his throne with petitions, and I shall obey. If I pray for what is necessary to his glory, then it is only proper that I press my case urgently and persistently. The more I ask of God, the more glory redounds to his mercy and faithfulness—and the more training my heart has in turning from idols to depend on God (Zech. 10:1–2). As the Epistle of James explains with characteristic directness: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (4:2).
But note, too, the verb in the first line of the poem. I am to prepare the suit. Freedom before God is not the same as carelessness. If, in the rest of my life, I usually give some thought ahead of time to important conversations, why would I not do the same in preparation for prayer? “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Eccl. 5:2). C. H. Spurgeon’s congregations at the Metropolitan Tabernacle regularly got ready for the long prayer by singing a stanza or two of “Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare.”
If stanzas 1–2 embolden congregants to ask for high and big things, stanzas 3–6 provide one example of what that might look like. These stanzas do not constitute a model prayer, because they contain no confession, thanksgiving, or adoration—only petitions. And even as a model for petition they are incomplete, because the petitioning is only for oneself, not for anyone else. But no hymn can comprehensively model the nature and matter of prayer without being too general for the purposes of prayer and too long for the purposes of congregational song. What this hymn does do, however, it does very well—theologically, poetically, and musically.
This Lord’s Day we will be returning to 1 Peter. We will be considering verses 13- 17 of chapter 3. Here Peter again returns to dominant theme of the entire epistle, namely, the theme of suffering. We will endeavor to draw out some of Peter’s additional insights into this sobering theme. The Order of Worship is attached.
This Lord’s Day we will be enjoying our monthly Fellowship Meal together. Last evening, as I met with our deacons, it was suggested that we periodically go with a particular theme, with particular ethnic dishes. So, we’re going to try it out this Lord’s Day. As you probably could have anticipated, we would like to go with a Mexican food theme this month. So, if our families can prepare Mexican dishes to share with one another, that would be delightful. Of course you if you don’t care for Mexican food, you are certainly free to bring whatever you want.
It was also pointed out to me by the deacons that recent Fellowship Meals have been a bit on the skimpy side in terms of quantity. Historically, our rule of thumb has been that each family needs to bring two dishes to share. And each of those dishes should contain enough food to feed your family as well as well as one or two other people so we have plenty of food should visitors join us.
Please remember that, immediately following the Fellowship Meal, we will repair to the sanctuary for a season of prayer. I would plead with you to make this a priority. We are facing the most important decision this church has ever had to make, that is, the selection of our new pastor. We must have great confidence in the selection we make…that this is God’s man for this time. I’m convinced that can only be achieved by prayer.
· March 3– Fellowship Meal
· March 3– Prayer service (immediately following Fellowship Meal)
· March 4– Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· March 10– Young Adults Fellowship Group
· March 11– Ladies Group
· March 13– Session meets
· March 17– Adults Fellowship Group (westsiders)
· March 18– Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· March 24– Neighborhood Fellowship
· March 25– Ladies Group
· March 31– Psalm/hymn sing
The Bible’s truth does not depend in any way on whether or not a person believes the truth. —R.C. Sproul
We weren’t meant to be somebody—we were meant to know Somebody. —John Piper
What God is pleased to do, he does do. Our main job is to learn to be pleased with what pleases God. —Jim Orrick
God knows we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives. —Richard Sibbes
Without the cross, we could never have imagined the depth and seriousness of what it means to say that God is love. —Michael Reeves
Making Bricks For Evangelical Pharaohs
I worry that an awful lot of modern day ministry is about making bricks for evangelical pharaohs. Whether those pharaohs are actual people, or whether they are systems and philosophies of ministry that have been put in place, doesn’t matter all that much; making bricks is the paradigm of much modern ministry. And it’s leaving a trail of exhausted people in its wake.
There’s too much evangelical ministry based on the brick making principles of Egypt, and by that I mean a relentlessness to its demands on its people that is a stranger to the idea of rest. Let me explain. READ MORE…
The Age of Infanticide: The Senate Will Not Even Protect Babies Born Alive
Late yesterday, the United States Senate failed to muster enough votes to protect the lives of children born alive after an attempted abortion. This vote comes as one of the most important events in recent American political history—and it is simultaneously tragic and telling. This latest failure to protect human life represents the latest chapter in America’s lamentable and horrific Culture of Death – a culture driven by the pro-abortion movement. READ MORE…
Created vs. Creative Identity
The problem (so to speak) with Christianity is that it places creaturely identity in the hands of the Creator rather than the creature. In other words, it holds that the identity of every human being–and, for that matter, every created thing–is fundamentally established by God, not constructed by the creature. Christianity and contemporary culture necessarily exist on a collision course on this matter since one of the defining features of our cultural moment is the perception that every individual has not only the ability but also the inalienable right to play a constructive part in determining his or her (or zir?) identity. READ MORE…
A Shelf Full of Bibles: Translation by the Numbers
J. Jack Smith
This morning, I picked one of my eight Bibles off my shelf to read. One of them is for church, another for study, and one I bought because I liked its red cover. And then the others are just there.
I have more Bibles on my shelf than most people and the majority of the world’s languages, and here are the numbers to prove it. READ MORE…
God Is Closer to You Than Your Own Thoughts
When people philosophize about God, images of his distance often predominate. God is, we say, far from us, in a different realm from the earth in which we live.
There is some truth in this.
The Bible often says that God reigns “on high” (Job 16:19; Ps 18:16). That is a synonym for heaven, a place above and beyond us. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he rose into the air until he was out of sight (Acts 1:9–11).
But Scripture also says that God is near us, with us, in every place. READ MORE…
IS THE CHURCH A CAGE?
Carl R. Trueman
Is the Catholic Church a cage? The language of a recent New York Times article on the number of gay men in the Roman Catholic priesthood certainly implies that it is. The precise quotation comes from Father Bob Bussen, a priest in Utah: “Life in the closet is worse than scapegoating,” he said. “It is not a closet. It is a cage.”
While Bussen does not explicitly indict his church, the inference is clear: The Roman Catholic Church imprisons its priests because of its teaching on sexuality. The article has many problems, not least an assumption that sexuality equates to personal wholeness. There is also the intriguing question of how these men managed to volunteer for the priesthood without realizing that it would require them to abstain from all sexual activity. Were they perchance absent from the seminary class on the day of that lecture? But what fascinated me most was the choice of the word “cage.” It reveals that Christians today are not merely struggling with the question of whether gay sex is legitimate or not, or even of what role sexuality plays in the notion of personhood. At a deeper level, they are grappling with the question of exactly what the church’s purpose is. READ MORE…
Theological Minutia Matters
Who needs theological education? Doesn’t theology just lead to mind-numbing debates over insignificant matters? Only theological eggheads insist on parsing doctrines and dogmas until powerful, life-changing experiences with God get dissected and reassembled as stale and crusty formulas. Who cares about the minutia? Give me something simple and relevant!
That’s the cry from many in the church these days. We’re told that the next generation doesn’t have patience for rehashing theological quarrels from previous centuries. To reach millennials, we need to get back to the basic message of Jesus’s love. Stay simple. Stay practical. Whatever you do, don’t get mired in meaningless distinctions about ancient words or complicated concepts about the essence of God or the nature of salvation.
But what if the minutia matters? Like, really matters? READ MORE…
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” J. Gresham Machen
“When Christ calls a man – he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer