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Psalm 25

Five Layers

Read the whole psalm and see its five layers: prayer (vv. 1-7; meditation (vv. 8-10); prayer (v. 11); meditation (vv. 12-15); prayer (vv. 16-22). In our Christian lives there should be a balance between prayer (talking to God in God’s presence) and meditation (thinking about God in God’s presence).

Verse 11 is central to the prayer: “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great,” the psalmist says. He invokes God’s nature, for that is the reality to which God’s name is pointing, and asks that God will be who he is—namely, a merciful God: one who will forgive his sins.

The prayer is repetitive. I am not always happy when I hear leaders say in prayer meetings, “Keep the prayers short because we want to let everyone have a turn” (or words to that effect). It isn’t always or even usually the biblical pattern that prayers are short. Repetition in prayer is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by: only if we think there is some magic in repetition does it become “empty” (Matt. 6:7). When we’re talking to one another, we often repeat ourselves in order to emphasize something; so when we’re talking to God we can do the same. See how often the psalmist repeats himself. He tells God twice that he’s waiting on him (vv. 5, 21); he asks for pardon three times (vv. 7, 11, 18).

The prayer is basically a cry for help, interspersed with praise; praise to God for being the sort of God who helps those in trouble. Breaking it down a little, we could say that first the psalmist waits for guidance (vv. 1-7), then he thinks of God’s goodness (vv. 8-10, 12-15), and then he pleads for grace (vv. 16-22).

Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for February 18

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