Week of February 19

Praying Effective Prayers while Waiting for God’s Deliverance

Read: Leviticus 25; Psalm 25-26; Acts 22
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”
Psalm 25:1, ESV


“No child of God sins to that degree as to make himself incapable of forgiveness.” King David knew this to be true. He once again prays for deliverance, but in this case, he confesses his sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness (cf. Psalm 51). He expresses his confidence in God’s mercy in his worship. We will quickly notice that God’s forgiveness would be recognizable in the rescue from his foes!
Oh my! Do you see what I see? The deliverance will come in future time, so in between is the meantime! He shows us how to praise God in real time while we wait for His deliverance in future time. Wow! Ponder the blessing that we have before us today. We will learn to praise deeply and meaningfully while we await God’s deliverance.

The Meaning of the Text

Beautiful poetry
The psalm is written in a beautiful acrostic fashion where each new verse begins with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Notice the number of times that the psalmist prays for help in his troubles (vv. 25:2, 3, 16-18a, & 19-20), for forgiveness (vv. 7, 11, & 18b), and for God’s guidance (vv. 4-5). We do well to learn from David how to approach the Lord in our distress. He opens with a prayer for God’s assistance, guidance, and forgiveness (vv. 1-7), then focuses his praise on God’s character and attributes (vv. 8-14). He then widens the scope of his plea by offering another series of petitions for help.
How to pray real time prayers while living in the meantime
Remind yourself that God forgives us when we repent. Some scholars believe that the psalm shifts its focus toward the latter half, while others believe the change is due to the difficulty of putting his thoughts into an acrostic poem. Hmmm. I believe that it is possible that David poured out his heart to the Lord seeking and hoping for forgiveness. This led him to call to mind God’s forgiving nature and the various ways this was evident in His actions.
I would imagine that his heart was calmed greatly by this point, and he then widens the view and petitions God for His aid. Regardless, the central theme throughout is God’s forgiveness. The overwhelming joy of receiving God’s forgiveness floods the soul of any person who truly seeks His help! Sadly, we have not because we too often ask not. So, how do we ask?
Prayer that works
Make prayer a sincere first response, not a last-ditch effort. David begins by teaching us to pray (lit. “to lift up,” v. 1). This means that we are to worship God. The idea in the Hebrew language is to talk to God. We are to open our mouths and offer Him the adoration that He deserves. Even though the situation is one of separation due to sin, the psalmist still offers God proper praise for who He is. We should do the same.
Pour your heart into prayer. Secondly, this is no casual prayer because he emphatically calls out to God (“to you”). He encircles this sincere cry by addressing God as “Yahweh” (“Lord”), “my God,” and includes himself, despite his sin and separation, with those who trust (“hope”). We do not want to overwork the text, but there is great evidence within the psalm of David’s sincere desire to conform to God.

The Message for Our Lives

I recall living in a home where I often heard children playing the piano from the house across the street. Our neighbor was a music teacher, and I cannot help but remember my childhood experiences with my own music teacher, Mrs. Johnson. She was a most precious and patient soul. Sadly, my half-commitment never reached a “whole note” with her, but she patiently, yet firmly, instructed me in the rules for pianists.
She would instruct me by saying things like, “Larry, to master the instrument will require your whole commitment.” This dedication was something that I failed to understand or apply at that time. Nevertheless, I cannot help but remember those early lessons and to this day I recall the feel of the piano keys, the rich sound of a note played well, and the glorious music that poured forth when she played for me! She’d say, “Practice well, Larry, and you will do better next time.” The implications of our songs of praise are much more significant, but the Lord calls to each of us this day to remember the first time He touched our hearts and placed His song there. He calls us to practice it well.
The takeaway for our lives today. Truly, this well-orbed response to God has never originated in anything that we can externally grasp. It must flow from what has taken hold of our deepest being! It’s not a cup of water that we drink; instead, it is a river flowing from within (John 4). The Psalmist knew this when he writes that the Lord teaches His children the right way to walk and how to practice love and fidelity (Psalm 25:10). Precisely because He deals with His children justly, lovingly, and faithfully, He expects them to imitate Him. The Psalmist cannot conceive how a person might claim to love God and yet fail to keep the demands of His covenant. Neither can Jesus (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

For Thought and Action

1. Take some time to scroll through our recent readings in Exodus and Leviticus and look for the ways that God provided his forgiveness to individuals and to the nation of Israel as a whole. Add your name and sin(s) to the list. Yes, write your name and your sin down, then seek God’s forgiveness.
2. What past sin in your life has fallen like a giant boulder across the path that leads you to receive the Father’s love and mercy? Meditate upon God’s nature as forgiving, then conduct a word search on forgiveness throughout the Bible. Ask God to use each verse of scripture to chisel away the stone until you are able to run and fall into His arms!
3. For Families: Being forgiven for a wrongdoing is a powerful experience, both freeing and humbling. When we share this day’s devotional thought with our children, we can ask them to think with us about something important.

Ask them to close their eyes and imagine walking a path to the playground or the sidewalk to a neighbor’s house. Now ask them to imagine the most huge thing, falling down and blocking them. How big is this thing? Encourage them to explain it to you. What are they imagining that is trapping them and preventing them from being at the park or playmate’s house? Can they draw it on a sheet of paper?

Now have your kids imagine that they cry out and ask the “big thing” to be removed, and a far bigger hand gently picks it up, moves it completely away, and frees them! This is what happens when we sin. The weight of our wrongdoing smashes us down and holds us captive. It makes God sad. But when we cry out to Him, trust Him, and ask Him to forgive us, He does. We are then free to follow Him again. How wonderful forgiveness is! Praise our forgiving Father.
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock