Prayer in the Old Testament
This is a good portion of Scripture to meditate on as we go to prayer and even to pray to God as our prayer. Our experiences are not that much different from David’s, remember, "These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come." 1 Cor 10:11
1-7 David speaks to the Lord for Himself
“1 O Lord, I come before you in prayer.” Prayer is a specific act, not merely an attitude. It is something we do, not just think about.
“2 My God, I trust in you.” Trust here means “to confide in, so as to be secure and without fear” Who else can we go to. None other can understand or help.
“Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!” David prays for himself as he confronts his enemies. If we are in God’s will, our enemies and God’s enemies are the same. God cannot be defeated and neither can we.
“3 Certainly none who rely on you will be humiliated.” God is trustworthy and will not fail us. David could sympathize and pray for others because of his own experience. We can never go wrong relying on God.
“Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.” God will deal with the wicked in His time.
“ 4 Make me understand your ways, O Lord! Teach me your paths!” This is the attitude of an effectual pray-er. We must seek God with all of our heart and complete submission. We must be teachable and leadable.
“5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.” Truth and doctrine are inseparable from one who is in communion with God.
“For you are the God who delivers me; on you I rely all day long.” It is vain to look for our help from any other source.
“6 Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lord, for you have always acted in this manner.” It seems that we humans constantly forget the goodness of the Lord, but He doesn’t forget to be compassionate to us.
“7 Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O Lord”
8-10 David acknowledges the character of the Lord
“8 The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live. 9 May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!” The proud cannot learn the things of God nor can they pray when they have a stubborn will.
“10 The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.” God’s methods and objectives are always good to His people.
11 David appeals to the Lord for forgiveness
“11 For the sake of your reputation, O Lord, forgive my sin, because it is great.” David is concerned about God’s honor, he want his sin forgiven and his life maintained so God will not be dishonored. All of us have a great weight of sin but it is those who come to God that feel it most. Feeling our sinfulness is not a disqualification of coming to God but it is an integral part of it.
12-15 David speaks about what the Lord does
“12 The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. 13 They experience his favor; their descendants inherit the land. 14 The Lord 's loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them. 15 I continually look to the Lord for help, for he will free my feet from the enemy's net.” They that pray to know God’s will are assured to know it, understand what He wants from us and have his protection. God reveals His secrets to those who dwell in secret with Him. We have no greater enemy than our depraved nature that so often snares us; but the Lord will deliver us as we commune with Him.
16-22 David speaks to the Lord again
“16 Turn toward me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and oppressed! 17 Deliver me from my distress; rescue me from my suffering! 18 See my pain and suffering! Forgive all my sins! 19 Watch my enemies, for they outnumber me; they hate me and want to harm me. 20 Protect me and deliver me! Please do not let me be humiliated, for I have taken shelter in you! 21 May integrity and godliness protect me, for I rely on you! 22 O God, rescue Israel from all their distress! ” Many negative words are used to describe David’s condition. When we are going through the trials it feels as if we are alone. All we can do and all we should do is rely on our God; He is able to rescue us.
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In Gen 28 we have the story of Jacob deceiving his father and his having to leave for fear of Esau. Verses 12-19 tell us of the dream he had as he traveled, “He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at its top. He said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!’ Then Jacob woke up and thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!’ He was afraid and said, ‘What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!’ Early in the morning Jacob took the stone he had placed near his head and set it up as a sacred stone. Then he poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel...” The Hebrew for Bethel means “house of God.” Jacob was afraid but not with a servant-like fear, but child-like fear; not a fear of the wrath and displeasure of God, but an awe of the greatness and glory of God.
When Solomon had built “the Lord’s temple” the Lord appeared to him and promised to accept their future repentance and then said in 2 Chr 7:15, “Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there.” Here God is making prayer especially important and associating it with His presence. This is not a reference to the omnipresence of God, but to His special and spiritually manifested presence. Here we have the first physical representation of “the house of God.”
Isaiah says in 56:5-8 “‘I will set up within my temple and my walls a monument that will be better than sons and daughters...I will set up a permanent monument for them that will remain. As for foreigners who become followers of the Lord and serve him, who love the name of the Lord and want to be his servants—all who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it, and who are faithful to my covenant. I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.’ The sovereign Lord says this, the one who gathers the dispersed of Israel: ‘I will still gather them up.’” Here we have again the temple, or “house of God,” associated with prayer, but it includes more than the Israelites. It is broadened to include ‘foreigners who become followers of the Lord...for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.’” God intends His temple “the house of God” to have prayer as a prominent ingredient.
Our Lord quotes this passage in Isaiah, “Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. Then he began to teach them and said, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers.” Mk 11:15-17 Jesus was very upset about “God’s House” not being used for prayer. We should ask ourselves, “How does the Lord Jesus feel about our churches today that have fine buildings, great organization, good entertainment and little or no prayer?” It is sadly obvious that almost all of our churches are not characterized by prayer.
In 1 Tim 3:14,15 Paul tells Timothy “I am writing these instructions to you...to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God.” He is referring to 1 Tim 2:1-3:13 where the first thing he deals with is prayer-- “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people...Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior...So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.” Paul is instructing Timothy to lead the people of God to pray as a people of God in “the house of God.”
If the “house of God” is to be a “house of Prayer,” then the leaders need to lead the people to be proficient in this exercise. “It is a tremendous responsibility to lead God’s people to God’s throne and into God’s presence in public prayer. God can so strongly anoint the one who leads in prayer that all present are brought into consciousness of God’s presence until the one praying is forgotten and the people as one in heart and soul unit and agree in the prayer.” Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer, p 129
When we put prayer in its proper place in “the house of God” that we are worshiping in, we will say as Jacob did “This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!” Our prayer experience will be like “a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens” with the angels of God going up and coming down it and the Lord standing at the top. Angels are messengers and represent our prayers that go up and God’s responses that comes down. God will be at the top speaking to us and we will stand in awe of the greatness and glory of God.
God dwells not only where, O’er saintly dust,
The Sweet bells greet the fairest morn of seven;
Wherever simple folk love, pray and trust,
Behold the House of God, the Gate of Heaven.
Come to the morning-prayer;
Come, let us kneel and pray:
Prayer is the Christian pilgrim’s staff,
To walk with God all day.
At noon, beneath the Rock
Of Ages, rest and pray;
Sweet is that shelter from the heat,
When the sun smites by day.’
At evening, shut thy door;
Round the home-altar pray;
And, finding there the house of God,
At Heaven’s gate close the day.
When midnight veils our eyes,
Oh, it is sweet to say,
I sleep, but my heart waketh, Lord,
With thee to watch and pray.
James Montgomery (Quoted in Prayer and its Remarkable Answers, William Patton p 32)
Related Topics: Prayer