Tag Archives: prayer

God’s Promises

Arise, O LORD, in your anger; 
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
(Psalm 7:6 ESV)

God alone is able to fulfill His promises. Those who offer promises, who swear they will do something, who claim ability to satisfy, may accomplish what they have promised in some circumstances, but not every circumstance. No fallen person can say they will do something, or never do something, and know with 100% certainty they will follow through. No one can foresee the future and every possible circumstance that may arise. No one has total control over what will happen. Only God is omniscient and omnipotent, having the foreknowledge of what will be because He exists outside of space-time history. He alone sees the beginning of history from the end. Only God has the power and compassion and will to do that which He promises. 

In the Psalms, Jesus asks God to deliver Him from His enemies. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). Then Jesus declares God hears and accepts His prayer. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:8-9 ESV). Jesus is so confident in the promise of God to judge righteously between those who falsely accuse Him and His own righteousness that He declares His “enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV).

Trust is an emotional, active response to a promise, and is integral to true faith. Without trust there is no faith and “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). Jesus is so confident in God’s response to His suffering for righteousness’s sake that He prays God respond in His wrath. Arise means to come upon the scene and stand up in power, to fix oneself in an immovable position and to endure against all assaults. God not only arises but lifts Himself up. To lift yourself up means bear up, take upon Himself, carry, support, sustain and endure, as well as to exalt oneself. God takes a stand against sin, placing Himself as a shield between those who are His and His enemies. 

God’s anger is the snorting kind and is the same word and concept used in the previous Psalm. Anger also means nose or face and suggests heavy breathing. “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath” (Psalm 6:1 ESV). The image is of a person who witnesses something disgusting and snorts in derision and anger. God’s anger is against sin and the Deceiver, His enemies. Those who continue to disobey His command to repent and turn back to Him are also His enemies. Those who continue in their disobedience face the wrath of God.

When Moses brought the Israelite people out of Egypt they were led by God. 

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people” (Exodus 12:21-22 ESV).

After years of Egyptian enslavement, God promised to bring them out of Egypt and into their own land. To do this, God sent Moses to Pharaoh to command the Egyptian king to let the people of God leave. Pharaoh refused, believing himself equal to or greater than any god. After God persuaded Pharaoh to let His people go, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them. As Pharaoh’s army approached God, moved from before the people to between them and the Egyptians, as a shield. 

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. (Exodus 14:19-20 ESV)

God raised Himself up in judgment against a king who rebelled against Him, refusing to obey His direct command. All of Pharaoh’s army perished, feeling the wrath of God. “The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained” (Exodus 14:28 ESV). God raised Himself up in judgment.

Forty years later, Joshua led the people into the Promised Land. As he was standing before Jericho, he came face-to-face with the angel of the LORD. He saw the pre-incarnate Christ, who came as the Commander of the army of the LORD. 

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.”

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him,  “What does my lord say to his servant?” 

And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.(Joshua 5:13-15 ESV).

God the Son directed Joshua against Jericho and the enemies of God living in the land. 

God promises to rebuke and punish those who are His enemies. “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV).

Why? If Jesus died for the sins of the people created in His image, why do any continue to face His wrath? Jesus tells us. His enemies show their response to the grace of God in utter hatred for Him. God’s enemies fight against Him with fury, which is overflowing wrath and arrogance, outbursts of uncontrolled rage. Those who suffer for righteousness’ sake feel the brunt of the excessive rage of the world against God because of His righteousness (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus endured torture, choosing to die from the brutal, cruel treatment of the Jews and the Romans because He was righteous before God. Those who continue in their disobedience want to destroy God so He no longer has control and authority of all creation. This will never happen.

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He Has Done It

The LORD has heard my plea;  
the LORD accepts my prayer.(Psalm 6:9 ESV)

God hears. He pays attention to and takes an interest in the prayers, pleas and weeping of His Son and those who have taken refuge in Him. Heard means to give attention, to not only listen to but to understand in the deepest way, to have a case, as in a court of law, presented and received and recognized. A plea is a supplication for favor, a request and appeal, again, as in a case brought before a court of law. Prayer is offered to God. It is a calling upon, talking to and with, the Lord. 

After the fall and expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve had children, who also had children. “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26 ESV). To call means to summon, invite, to cry out and proclaim. People, created in the image of God, close enough to the beginning of creation, knowing their separation from Him, yet knowing His presence, sought Him out. This did not happen for long. After a time, people stopped seeking Him and began doing that which they determined right. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6 ESV). Some continued to call upon God, seeking His face. Most turned their backs on Him who created them.

There is only One person who truly seeks God. He is the One Righteous Man of Psalm 1 and the Anointed Son and King over all of Psalm 2. He is Jesus. God hears Him when He prays. Not just an acknowledgement of His words, or an understanding of His case, but a drawing Him into His presence in an intimate relationship. 

Taking three of His disciples with Him up a mountain to pray, Jesus was transformed before them as they came into the presence of God. “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white” (Luke 9:29 ESV; see Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2-3). Jesus often went away from people to pray. This is the only time we are aware of where people went with Him and watched. Is there any reason to not believe every time Jesus prayed alone He was not also transfigured, changed as He came into God’s presence? Jesus knows when He speaks to God He is heard.

God not only hears, He accepts His prayer. To accept means to take in the hand, hold onto, carry away, capture and seize, possess and choose. Those who accept, claim intimacy. Two people accept each other in marriage, holding onto each other, carrying each away from others, seizing and possessing and choosing each other over every other. God instituted marriage between the first Man and Woman, Adam and Eve, and declared them the example for all future marriages. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). In the same way marriage is an acceptance of a covenant decision to hold fast to each other, so God accepts the prayer of Jesus, holding fast to Him in a relationship that cannot be divided. God hears His plea and accepts His prayer.

Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. He did this through example and demonstration, but also through direct instruction. 

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8 ESV)

Do not be like the workers of evil He rejects, though they present themselves as His. Do not be like the hypocrites, who desire the people to worship them and not God. Be like Jesus. Impossible. We are commanded to follow Him, to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) and be holy. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16; see Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7). We cannot do anything perfect or holy in ourselves. We must be lost and abandoned to Him, in Him, covered by His righteousness and empowered by His grace and strength, to do His commands. It is the only way. He has done it. 

Facing Death

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

Only God can both save and deliver anyone’s life from death. Those who have faced death and lived are better able to see and know the value, or lack of value, of their life compared to their stuff. For those who face certain death, yet continue to live and who have no hope for eternity, their property becomes the only reason to live. Without their belongings they have nothing. They know they cannot take anything with them when they die so they cling to life as long as possible and covet that which was never theirs. For those who have hope for eternity, who know they are known and loved by God, material possession carries little or no value. Spiritual maturity brings a realization that only that which is eternal holds eternal value. Only the Word of God (God Himself) and people created in His image have value. 

Only God can determine eternal value. He created people for relationship with Him because He wants them with Him for eternity. Those who rebel against Him will continue to exist for eternity but will exist away from His known presence.

Hezekiah lay dying. Isaiah came to the king, delivering a hard message. “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24). Despondent, facing imminent death and deeply afraid, Hezekiah prayed.“‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:3). Isaiah returned, giving another message to the king.“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5 ESV; see 1 Kings 20:5). God listened to king Hezekiah. He did not avoid death but was given more time.

There are two things we should note about king Hezekiah. He did follow the LORD with his whole heart, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD.“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV; see 2 Chronicles 31:20). But his righteous works did not follow in those extra years given by God. The evidence is shown in the life of his son, Manasseh.  

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV; 2 Chronicles 33:9).

King Hezekiah was rich and became proud. After God healed him he did not continue working for God with his whole heart but exulted in his riches. Though he humbled himself, and God saved Judah and Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians, God still punished Israel for not seeking Him with the whole thinking of their hearts.

“But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:25-26 ESV).

God turned away from His judgment and delivered Hezekiah’s life. God saved him because of His love. In his later life, Hezekiah did not return to God the compassion and grace he was given. 

God did not turn away from, or stop the required judgment against sin endured by Jesus even when He asked God. Jesus did respond to God’s mercy and compassion in a way that lifted up God before all the people.

Without an eternal perspective life is self-focused and people are self-absorbed. Created in the image of God, people are given the natural and eternal ability to know Him intimately. Replacing Him with stuff is idolatry. Those who do not intimately know God are agonizingly afraid of death and the unknown. Those who do intimately know God, and are known by Him, are peacefully at rest with death. There may be fear of the process of dying but not of death itself. Death, separation from this sinful world, our sinful flesh and the constant attacks of the Deceiver, brings relief. We know this because of Jesus, who was raised from the dead, tells those who are His they will be with Him in eternity. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

Abiding Love

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

God turns toward those He calls, offering them His eternal mercy as they obey Him. He cannot abide sin in His presence. David’s words in this Psalm are a reflection of his words in Psalm 5, which pronounces judgment upon those who turn away from God. 

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

God does not trust those who are in rebellion against Him. In the deepest thinking of their hearts lives the desire to do whatever can be conceived to hurt or kill God. People hate God and hate truth, evidenced by their clinging to the insanity of sin. Though created in His image, with all the tools needed to fulfill the design for their lives given by God, people are corrupt and unwilling to work for Him. No one who has sinned is able to do anything to make them righteous before God. God’s intent is to show all who rebel against Him their abject spiritual poverty and do for them that which they cannot do for themselves. He offers all people salvation from His justified wrath. But, they must trust Him and turn toward Him.

Mercy is active love. God actively loves those He has created in His image. Love is God’s active goodness and kindness toward everyone. His purpose for creating people in His image is for intimacy, which is a natural element of God’s eternal character. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

No one controls God. Those He brings into His presence enter because they obey His command to repent and declare His Son Messiah, Savior because of what He did. God decided to place upon His Son the sin of those in the world, who rebelled against Him, because of His eternal love for them, not because of anything they could do. People can do nothing to earn salvation. Nothing. God delivers life because of His eternal love. Our response to His love is to love Him in return. 

Hezekiah’s words express his eternal response to God even while his eyes are fixed on his temporary circumstance. “The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 38:20 ESV). With the tools given in the image of God, people can think eternally. God wants us to recognize sin and hate it. He wants us to see our inability to do anything for ourselves that is righteous. He wants us to acknowledge all He has done for us by His grace. He loves us and wants an intimate relationship, receiving our love for Him as a natural part of our being His.

Turn means to return, come back, rotate toward. Where God turned His back on sin, He turns again and faces the one He loves. Deliver means to make strong, to withdraw or draw off, to rescue and set free. Soul is the same word used in 6:3. His soul was greatly troubled and now He is asking for God to withdraw His anger and wrath and give comfort and security. God’s steadfast love means His great mercy, His eternal purpose exercised in conjunction with His eternal goodness. To save means to give victory, be liberated and freed from the effects and sentence for sin. David, Hezekiah and Jesus all prayed God would keep them alive. Death is the ultimate consequence for sin. David and Hezekiah died and those who followed them turned away from God and were banished from the kingdom. Jesus died and was raised, and those who follow Him turn toward God as eternal citizens of His kingdom.

God turns toward the individual who rebels against Him, reaching out in compassion and love. He will not face them for eternity if they refuse to obey His commands and directives.

Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. People continue to sin as long as they remain in the world. Sin has immediate and eternal consequences. Immediate consequences of sin affect the person and those who surround the person, who are influenced by them, even remotely. Eternal consequences are separation from Him who sustains life, which is existence without nourishment. Jesus took upon Himself the eternal consequences of sin and immediately gave to those who are His, the covering of His blood. People who sin, even those covered by the blood of Christ, suffer the immediate consequence but not the eternal effects. 

God turns toward us because we are found in Him. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God delivers us from death because His Son died in our stead and was raised. God loves us with steadfast love because He created us for relationship, giving His image to people. We are saved by Him and for Him. That we would continually acknowledge and praise Him and grow in our intimate knowledge of Him should be natural.

Sentencing

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,(Psalm 5:10 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the last week of His earthly ministry, He went to the Temple, His Father’s house, and cleared away the vendors and moneychangers. He disrupted Annas’ Bazaar, violently driving them from the Temple grounds. In the Gospel of John, at the beginning of His ministry when He did the same, He accused the authorities of turning His Father’s house into a market. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”  (John 2:16 ESV). Now, the second time, He accuses them of thievery. They are stealing from the people and from God.“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13 ESV; see Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Jesus acts angry.

Following this scene, Jesus confronts and is confronted by the spiritual leaders of Israel, who are leading the people away from God, not toward Him. Yet, the people come to Him, especially those who need healing. Children cried out, exclaiming over Him.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (Matthew 21:14-17 ESV).

The next day, Jesus again entered the Temple. There is no indication Annas’ Bazaar was still there. Immediately, the chief priest challenged and questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.“The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matthew 21:25 ESV). They refused to answer. “And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV). They were not interested in knowing the truth. All they wanted was political power. “For there is no truth in their mouth” (Psalm 5:9 ESV).

Jesus confronts them and their rebellion using two parables. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46 ESV). Jesus used His stories to convict them of their guilt and wrongdoing.

Jesus’ first parable was of the two sons. A father had two sons. He told them both to work in their vineyard. One son declared he would, but did not. The other son said he would not work, but went and worked. One son claimed obedience but lied. The other son rebelled but then obeyed. The Father is God. The sons are the children of God. 

Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

They said, “The first.” 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.   (Matthew 21:31-32 ESV)

Jesus second parable is of the tenants of a master who built a winepress then traveled to a distant country. The tenants mutinied against him, killing the servants of the master sent to gather the profits of the winepress. The master sent his son, whom they also killed. They believed by killing the son they would then be rid of the master and have full control of the winepress. The Master is God. The tenants are the people of God. The servants are the prophets of God and the son is Jesus.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”  (Matthew 21:40-41 ESV)

Their own words condemn them. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”  (Matthew 21:43 ESV). They will bear their own guilt. They will fall by their own counsel. They rebel and sin against God and He will cast them from His presence.

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

God’s Election of the Saints

To those who are elect exiles (alien immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

People will infuse current meanings into translated words from an an ancient or historical text. A word translated from an ancient language into a modern English equivalent may not carry its true meaning to the readers. The word electis such a word.

Peter uses elect, one of the most misunderstood words in the New Testament, to describe the position of the Christian before God. In modern usage, elect means to select someone for a public office through the process of voting, choosing from multiple candidates. None of the New Testament writers who use the word suggest God has a multiple choice, selecting one over another based upon the individual’s qualifications or popularity. If God’s choice is dependent upon anything done by the person, then none would be chosen. Election is not a political word. The placement of the word is important in the understanding of what it means. In the ESV, the translators have placed the word electjust before the word exiles (alien-immigrant). Other translations have the word elect before the phrase “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Peter is describing the position of those chosen by God.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1Pe 1:1-2 ESV)

Elect means to be picked out or chosen according to God’s eternal criteria, through Jesus Christ. When used about Jesus, it means Messiah, as appointed by God to the highest possible office or position in eternity and over the physical universe. “‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Psalm 2:6-7 ESV). In the same way, those who are chosen are preeminent among all because of their position in Christ, not because of who they are or what they might have done.

Jesus calls those who are His, the elect. They have a special place before God and are protected from the eternal consequences of sin by Him. God cuts short the trauma of the end times because of those He has chosen for Himself. “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22 ESV; see Mark 13:20). They are the ones who, when confronted by the beguilement of the world, are not led astray. “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ESV; see Mark 13:22). Those who are in the world, who stand firm for God and are not led astray, are gathered together by God when He determines His creation is to come to an end. “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31 ESV, see Mark 13:27). God hears and responds to the righteous prayers of the elect. “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”(Luke 18:7 ESV).

In the English translations of the Greek, the word elect is also the word chosen. One of the best-known sayings of Jesus is “for many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14 ESV; see also Matthew 20:16). The word chosen is the word elect. Jesus speaks about those who have been summoned by God. Those who refuse to obey the summons are cast away from Him, while those who responsibly and obediently act upon the summons, are chosen by Him. Though the sinful person is required to obey God, the actions of the sinful person in no way carry merit. People were created for relationship with God. Obedience to His commands is a natural action of their being.

Paul often uses the term electreferring to Christians. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 ESV). Those who are elect are those chosen people who have obeyed the summons of God and not continued in their rebellion against Him. Being chosen is being given those characteristics that God deems valuable in both the temporary world and in eternity. Being chosen is emulating the character and personality of Jesus Christ.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”(Rev 17:14 ESV

Morning Prayer

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3 ESV)

God wants us to listen to Him and talk to Him. Praying to God upon first awakening from sleep is evidence of a person’s devotion to Him and desire to intimately know Him.

Morning is not the only time to pray. Morning is a good time to pray. We should pray always, at all times of the day. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 ESV). There is something about morning and prayer that has captured the discipline of many of the greatest spiritual leaders, beginning with Jesus. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”(Mark 1:35 ESV; see also Luke 4:42). Throughout His ministry Jesus prayed often at all times of the day.

Sleeping in the Psalms may mean resting with eyes closed and moving into the physiological state where one dreams. But it may also mean death. Jesus raised people from the dead and was, Himself, resurrected from death. Sleep is not death but the word is often used for someone who has died. Death is an enemy for the living in this world because it symbolizes God judgment. But sleep is a time of peace and rest that shows God’s pleasure and protection. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 ESV). Jesus was not afraid of His enemies during His ministry, nor of death and dying, for He controls death, it does not control Him.

Morning is used twice in this verse. Morning is the time to direct special attention to God. The ESV adds the word “sacrifice” to this verse, and sacrifice may be implied. Prepare means to direct, to arrange, order, furnish, as in to prepare a sacrifice or a meal or some other special experience. Watch means to keep close look out, to spy, observe or watch closely. The Psalmist suggests he has an anticipation of something important happening during his morning prayer. Praying in the morning prepares him for the meeting with God, insuring all is in order and ready for him to receive what God is giving. Our morning sacrifice is ourselves to His purpose and will.

Dreams and visions are times when God speaks to people about themselves and their relationship with Him. God spoke to Joseph about Mary, his future wife, in a dream (see Matthew 1:18-25) telling him to marry her even though she was pregnant with Jesus. After Jesus’ birth, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream, telling him to take his family to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod the Great (see Matthew 2:13-15). In Scripture dreams have special meanings. However, outside of Scripture, dreams are often misinterpreted, giving the dreamer an excuse to act on a superstitious belief. Nostradamus dreamed and led many people astray. Other times dreams will frighten and keep a person from acting. Sometimes God speaks to people in their dreams. Most often dreams reveal the innermost thinking of our hearts, often suppressed because of pain and discomfort. That which we long for may be revealed in dreams. Often, we dream and immediately forget our dreams upon waking.

Praying in the morning becomes a way to prepare for the day after a night of rest and dreaming deeply. Intimacy with God begins from the moment we awake. Or, a lack of intimacy is shown by removing thoughts of God from our hearts and minds from the moment we awake because of the “great” things we must face or accomplish. Praying in the morning becomes a discipline of obedience and love for God.

Jesus charges those who are His to stand ready for His return at a moment, driving home His instructions with several parables about those who lost because they were not prepared and ready for the return of their Master. He is speaking about His second coming “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV) and “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13 ESV). Jesus characterizes His coming as a thief in the night. “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15 ESV).

Discipline involves every thought and action. We are at war with sin, our own flesh and Satan and the world. Each of these enemies would storm our lives and enslave us, dragging us away from God. God’s Spirit in us, and the Word of God, gives us the tools we need to fight this war. It is a war fought in the heavens while the battlefield is within each person. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” ( Genesis 6:5 ESV). Jesus does not fix the old heart, the dead person. He makes a new person with a new heart that hungers and thirsts for Him and His righteousness, driving the recreated person to intimacy with Him. We are left in this world for two reasons. First, we are witnesses to the grace and truth of God before the world. Secondly, God is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our preparation begins at the moment of salvation and continues in eternity.