August 23 – Prayer

Before you read today’s psalm, notice that some words are in regular print; some are in italics. The words in the regular print are David’s pleas for God’s help. The ones in italics are words of belief and confidence in God. 

Psalm 86

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
    answer me, for I need your help.
Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
    Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
    You are my God.
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
    for I am calling on you constantly.
Give me happiness, O Lord,
    for I give myself to you.
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
    hear my urgent cry.
I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
    None can do what you do!
All the nations you made
    will come and bow before you, Lord;
    they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
    a violent gang is trying to kill me.
    You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
    Give your strength to your servant;
    save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
    Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
    for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.

Today, I want to introduce you to the “Prayer of Examen” developed by Ignatius of Loyola, a 15th Century priest who became the founder of the Jesuit Order of priests. In many ways, Psalm 86 reflects what a prayer of examen is. 

What is a prayer of examen? The information I’m giving you comes from the website jesuitresource.org. It is a daily reflective prayer that helps us be aware of the presence of God in all of our life. As you begin, take a deep breath and ask God to help you to know Him better and to see yourself as God sees you as you review the events of the day. This prayer is best in the morning as you reflect on the previous day, or at night as you go over your day.

You ask yourself: Where have I felt true joy? What has troubled me? What has challenged me? Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this? In response to what has come to mind, how should I respond to God? Should anything change as I face tomorrow?

Notice how David has several requests of God. In looking over his life, he knows he needs God desperately. He knows he’s under fire from enemies who would love to kill him. He trusts God, but he is also frightened. (Do you remember our pastor’s message on Psalm 42? Being frightened and anxious is human.) David is also aware that he flounders and messes up his life on his own. He knows he needs to live a purer life, a life that is more pleasing to God. David is asking for God’s help in many ways. I suspect that’s why he ends the psalm with “Lord, help and comfort me.”

But, David is also aware of God’s presence and power. As he prays for God’s help, he also realizes that God is with him. Just look at these statements:

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help

I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.

for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness

As you look back over your day, or look ahead to what is coming – ask God for his help as you reflect on the things and events that have happened to you. Also look for God’s presence in your life, those moments when you felt secure and loved by him. Remind yourself about who God is. Concentrate on his care for you.

Our song for today is Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher.

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