Prayers for Today from Psalms
4. Praying for Refuge
Life is filled with trials and struggles and difficulties. David knew all about this. As we dive into Psalm 31 we’ll hear the sound of David’s music through the problems of his life. The words of this psalm are raw and they are real. David moves from praising God to focusing on his problems and then ends up praising again as he goes from anguish to assurance. We could call this a psalm of lament but it could also be categorized as an imprecatory psalm because David asks God to unleash judgment on the wicked. Ultimately though, this is a psalm of trust as we see David in a fight for his faith.
We know from the heading that David wrote Psalm 31 but we don’t know the exact context in which he penned these words. It was either during the days in which he was fleeing for his life from King Saul or more likely it was during the rebellion of his own son Absalom who was seeking to overthrow him. Actually, it’s good that we don’t know exactly because it may make it easier to apply this psalm to our unique situations.
Because I see 2 main movements or prayer cycles in this psalm, I’m going to preach up to v. 8 and then we’re going to pray those verses back to the Lord. We’ll then walk through v. 9 -24 and pray that part of the passage to the Lord.
Prayer Cycle #1
1. Ask God for Help v. 1
The first place to start is to run to God for refuge and ask Him for help. Aren’t you glad that God’s grace covers our guilt and shame? Check how earnest David’s prayer is – v. 2. His prayer is also very personal as the word “me” is used 4 times. So here’s a question. Are your prayers passionate and personal?
2. Acknowledge who God is v. 3, 4
When you’re unsteady and uncertain, affirm the truth of God’s steadiness.
3. Affirm your Trust in God v. 5, 6
Start by pleading in prayer and then call on God’s character. David next settles the surrender issue by affirming his trust in God.
That phrase, “Into your hand I commit my spirit” was the prayer that Jewish boys and girls prayed before they went to sleep at night. It’s a prayer of ultimate commitment. It would be similar but much deeper than one of our childhood prayers, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Jesus quoted these words from the cross as He demonstrated his submission to the Father, entrusting Him with everything. In this closing cry from the cross, Jesus died with Scripture in his mouth. Stephen also quoted this psalm as he was being martyred.
As David sees others giving their lives to false idols, he is deeply grieved, yet he clearly commits himself to the Lord: “But I trust in the Lord.” No matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do, he will trust in the Lord. To “trust” means to rely on and to lean on, to have confidence in.
David moves from asking to acknowledging to affirming and then to adoring God in worship.
4. Adore God in Worship v. 7
That means that God sees your suffering and knows all about the blows you’ve taken. David can’t help but be joyful and glad even though his pain and suffering are severe. v. 8 - he’s grateful that he’s not been given over to his enemies. Instead he exclaims, “You have set my feet in a broad [spacious and large] place.” The meaning here is that God has not just barely saved him and given him a narrow piece of shifting sand to stand on. No, God has granted him a large and spacious place where he can be safe and secure.
à Let’s pray now, using the first 8 verses as our outline - Ask God for help - Acknowledge who He is - Affirm your trust - Adore God in worship
Song – Forever God is Faithful
Prayer Cycle #2
If the psalm were to end here we would think that David has resolved everything, never to have problems again. But he cycles through stress and suffering again…just like we all do. After committing our spirit and our stress and all of our stuff to the Lord, it’s quite common to go through difficulties and despair and even depression. As a result, David’s prayer takes on a greater sense of desperation. He still asks for help from God but this time he is more descriptive about the depth of his agony.
1. Ask God for Help v. 9a
When David cries out in the opening verses he uses 41 words, here he can only get out 6 words. Sometimes when we pray all we can say is this: “Be gracious to me, O Lord…” It’s like the brief prayer the tax collector prayed in: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” This reminds me of a song -
Life gets tough, and times get hard - It's hard to find the truth in all the lies
If you're tired of wondering why Your heart isn't healing
And nothing feels like home, Cause you're lost and alone just screaming at the sky
When you don't know what to say - Just say Jesus
2. Articulate your Agony v. 9b, 10
This is David’s raw assessment of his situation. This has been a week of weeping in our country.
v. 11 – 13 - David is further grieved because he has become marginalized. Public opinion has turned against him. He once enjoyed influence and was well respected but is now on the run. He is God’s anointed but society treats him like an enemy. Sounds a bit like the evangelical church today, doesn’t it? David has sunk into the depths of despair but notice that he doesn’t stay there.
3. Affirm your Trust in God v. 14
Even though he can’t change what others think or do, he can make sure that he is trusting in the Lord. No matter what anyone else does or says, I can still choose to trust in the Lord. We see this in the word “but.” I often remind myself of this phrase: My response is my responsibility. I like how David declares out loud: “You are my God.” Let’s say that together in unison: “You are my God!” I’m going to state a few things and you look up to heaven and say, “You are my God!”
When you’re ambushed by anxiety. “You are my God!”
When you feel alone and empty. “You are my God!”
When you see our society becoming more godless. “You are my God!”
When you wonder if things are ever going to get better. “You are my God!”
When you feel ashamed and guilty. “You are my God!”
When you feel like you can’t go on. “You are my God!”
David next affirms that God is sovereign and acknowledges everything that happens to him is filtered through His loving hands – v. 15. Even though the “times” in which we live are uncertain and unstable, God is sovereign.
In the “Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens wrote these words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Our times are in His hand. So here’s a question. What are we going to do with the time we’ve been given? In every adversity there lies the seed of an equivalent and greater opportunity. In times of darkness, light shines the brightest. Church, let’s be like those in 1 Chronicles 12: 32 “…understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Let’s not only understand, let’s be a people of action. Our times are in His hands. Let’s be His hands and feet by going with the gospel message to those in desperate need of it!
v. 16, 17a - This is a plea for God to smile upon David and reminds us of the benediction found in Numbers -“The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” Listen, you will be OK if people shame you as long as you know that God shines on you. Because God shines on you, you can handle any shame that comes your way.
David does some more venting – v. 17b, 18.
4. Adore God in Worship v. 19 – 21
It doesn’t take David long to get grounded again as he bursts out in worship.
5. Appeal to Others v. 23, 24
Look how this psalm ends. We’re not to keep our praise private, are we? While God is very personal to David, he wants others to encounter the living God.
As Christ-followers who have become increasingly marginalized, let’s live on mission as never before! When the early church was persecuted they proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ even more courageously. Acts 8:4: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
Our churches must stand in the gap in our society. This is no time to stop. Let’s be strong in Him and take courage.
“That means that our mission, my fellow followers of Jesus, is not to retreat from this depraved culture, but to go into this depraved culture and herald the message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To tell a world drunk on its own arrogance that God is God, and they are not. That He makes authoritative declarations and pronouncements and judgments, and they do not. It is to tell this lost world that their sovereign Creator has made a declaration, and it is this: that all people everywhere must repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. And that on that day, at the name of His Son, the Lord of all the earth, Jesus Christ, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ—not themselves—is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Let’s go to prayer, using verses 9- 24 as our outline -
Ask for help
Articulate your agony
Affirm your trust
Adore God in worship
Appeal to others
Let’s make our closing song our commitment today. May our praises put a smile on God’s face as His face shines upon us. Let’s hold our ground, seeking refuge in Him. He will come through…always.
My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always.