Praying for a New Perspective Part 1

Bev and I are on vacation this week. We are enjoying a wonderful time with our family and especially our grandchildren. We are in Thailand and have enjoyed the tropics with the warm and balmy climate. Yesterday was cool by Thai standards, but it was still in the eighties with just a touch of rain. We are looking forward to playing some golf today, the Lord willing.

Last Sunday, we had the privilege of worshipping with the believers at Immanuel Church. This is a new church plant that Ryan and Heather have partnered with to help evangelize, disciple and mature some church leaders. It was great to be a part of the service and to hear Ryan preach God’s Word, all in Thai. I heard three English words, my name when they introduced me, the word tornado as Ryan mentioned what happened to our church, and the word “face book.” I could see why Paul called for the interpretation of tongues in the public worship service in 1 Corinthians.

Since I have been gone, I have had the subject of prayer on my mind. I spoke on Sunday night on Colossians 4:12, where it states, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” So I have been drawn to the Psalms as my mind contemplates the area of prayer.

Have you ever thought about “Praying Through the Psalms.” While the Book of Psalms may be the most popular book in the Bible, and is most often associated with worship or songs of praise, the Psalms actually give us a very practical picture of prayer. They take us from the heights of joy to the depths of despair, using words that can serve as a pattern for our own prayers.

Ambrose, a church leader from the 4th Century, referred to the Psalms as the “gymnasium of the soul.” In order to catapult us into deeper prayer, both individually and as a church, we’re going to spend the next nine weeks exercising our faith as we pray through the Psalms. I encourage you to read through the entire Book of Psalms, using them as a model for prayer (if you read three a day you will finish the entire book by the end of summer).

It’s my hope that we will have, in our church, those who will help contribute to a flood of fervent prayers and raise the prayer temperature around here. Jesus said in Matthew 21:13: “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Let’s make Metro a house of prayer, and let’s commit to make our homes lighthouses of prayer. In order for that to happen, we must first have hearts of prayer.
I’ve often wondered what is most important – prayer or preaching? Should we be spending more time reading the Bible or praying? I love A.W. Tozer’s answer to this question: “Which is more important to a bird: the right wing or the left?” Teaching is not more important than caring for one another. Prayer is not better than evangelism. Worship does not trump ministry. They’re all essential and important.

My goal this summer is to allow the Word of God to catapult us into the praise of God. As we workout in the Psalms, we will find ourselves responding in protracted prayer. I will know that this has succeeded when each of us experience a revolution in our prayer life. I don’t want to just give information about the Psalms; I sincerely want to allow this section of God’s Word to affect life transformation.

Let’s admit something. Very few of us pray like we should. If the truth were known, most of us would be embarrassed if others knew how little we really prayed. Sometimes our prayer life is flabby simply because we’ve not been exercising it. But I’m convinced that for many of us prayer has become a bit boring and predictable. As we take this book of 150 prayers and actually begin praying these expressions of praise and longings back to God, we will experience nothing short of a prayer revival.

I’m not interested in giving you another formula for prayer. While they can be helpful in their simplicity, they invariably omit part of who we are or what we’re experiencing. Prayer becomes smaller and can become more like a task rather than life itself. When that happens real life and prayer begin to exist in separate compartments with few points of contact. Prayer can become a duty that we can never totally fulfill.

The call of the Bible is not a call to more prayer, but to a life of prayer. Paul calls it “unceasing prayer” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Jesus refers to prayer as a life of “abiding” in John 15:7. The Psalms are the only prayer guide that enlarges prayer so much that everything else is pulled into it. Prayer becomes the great conversation. Nothing is too large or too small to be prayed.

I went for a walk the other evening and it was pitch black. As I looked up at the stars and the moon, I was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and my own sense of smallness. Tears started to run down my face as God brought the words of Psalm 8 to my mind. I picture David, the author of this Psalm, lying on his back gazing at the heavens, when these words started flowing out of his mouth.

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Please join me as I pray this Psalm back to God…
We can outline this Psalm very simply.
1. God matters more than anything (1-3)
2. You matter to the Majesty (4-9)

God Matters More Than Anything
The theme of Psalm 8 is found in verse 1 and is repeated again in verse 9: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” The first word “LORD” is the name Yahweh, which was the unspoken name of God, and means “the self-existent one.” The second use of “Lord” is the name Adonai and is a title that reflects that He is master of everything. The use of “O Yahweh” focuses on God’s otherness, or separateness from us. The phrase “our Lord” helps us see that God is personally involved with us. God is powerful and He is also personal. Theologically speaking, He is both “eminent” and “immanent.” This dual orientation is a key to understanding this psalm.
We get in trouble when we emphasize one of these at the exclusion of the other. God is both beyond us and right near us. If we focus only on Him as forgiving, loving and not expecting too much, we can trivialize the Almighty. Conversely, if we picture God has removed from us, as One who is mysterious and to be afraid of, we can feel like He is impossible to know. Psalm 8 calls us to revel in the paradox of God’s being – He is “other” but He is “ours.” If I know Jesus as Savior, then God is both majestic and He is mine.

God’s name is “majestic” in all the earth. This means that His name, which stands for all that He is, is excellent and famous in the earth. There is no one else like Him. He is omnipotent and incomparable. Exodus 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” David is overwhelmed by the majesty and greatness of the Almighty, and recognizes God’s global glory, much like Paul does in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

David concludes verse 1 by saying that God’s glory is way beyond the heavens. The word “glory” encompasses all of His attributes. The word literally means, “heavy” and refers to the fact that God is weighty, or awesome. As David stared into the night sky, he was dazzled by what He saw and yet God’s glory fills the galaxy and beyond! When contemplating God’s glory, Solomon writes something similar in 1 Kings 8:27: “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

Verse 2 takes us from the highest heavens to one of the smallest things on earth: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise…” We move from heavenly bodies to infant expressions. I picture David’s stargazing being interrupted by a baby’s cry or a child’s voice. This is really cool. God’s transcendent glory, His greatness that is far above the heavens, can be grasped and expressed by a child! Children have a way of capturing spiritual truth in ways that amaze, and even rebuke us grownups.

A father was reading the Bible story about Lot to his young son: “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.” When he was done, his son asked, “What happened to the flea?” That reminds me of a three-year-olds response to a song that was sang to her recently, “Megan is a gift from God. Megan is a gift to be enjoyed. Megan is a gift from above. Megan is a gift to be loved.” When her friend finished the song, Megan said, “But I don’t have any wrapping paper on…”

Children have the innate ability to see things simply and literally. That’s why we have children’s church and Sunday School classes for all ages. That’s why we are about to start our VBS in just a few short days. It’s for their benefit, but actually, if you’re a teacher, you benefit from the praises that come from the lips of kids. Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 21:16 in response to the chief priests and teachers’ complaint about children confessing the deity of Christ. This helps us see that praise is instinctive to us as human beings. We have been made to worship. It’s natural to praise Him!

In verse 3, David’s mind returns to the marvels of the cosmos: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” The word “consider” means to meditate, or to see. As he looks at the star-spangled sky, He quickly gives testimony to God’s work – “your” heavens, “your” fingers, which “you” have set in place.
David is astonished at the greatness of a God who could create such things. It is estimated that there are at least 10 billion galaxies in the universe, with each galaxy containing perhaps 100 billion stars. The word “fingers” is a metaphor that was used for embroiderers. God knit everything together, arranging all the planets and stars in such a way that would bring Him the most glory. David only saw a fraction of this stellar display but he was overwhelmed nonetheless.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are best known as the first astronauts to land on the moon and take that “giant leap for mankind.” What you may not know is that before they emerged from the spaceship, Aldrin pulled out a Bible and as his first act on the moon, he broke bread, took a cup and celebrated communion.

Frank Borman was commander of Apollo 8 and had the thrill of looking down on the earth from 250,000 miles away. He radioed a message, in which he and his fellow astronauts took turns quoting the opening verses of Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” He later explained, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us, that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.” There’s something about space that sparks our spirit, isn’t there? I like what John Glenn said after his return to outer space 36 years later, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith.”

These first three verses help us see that God matters more than anything. The rest of the Psalm establishes a second truth: You matter to the Majesty. The first half focuses on God’s glory. The second half answers the age-old questions: “What is man? How do we fit into the cosmos? What is our purpose? Why are we here?” By the way, these questions can only be answered as we come to grips with who God is. Any attempt to find out who we are apart from the One who made us is doomed to failure. We must always start with God.