Far too often, Christians complain that they’re not praying enough. Statistics point to the reality that many evangelicals find time for recreation, physical fitness, soccer practices, and business responsibilities—but they spend precious little time in prayer. In fact, according to Barna Research Group, 82% of Americans pray silently and alone rather than with the gathered church with only 2% praying with the gathered church family.
So, what’s the cause? Are we busier than Christians were in the past? Perhaps we are busier, but aren’t we more connected through technology to useful tools to make our lives more efficient? So, why are we spending less time in prayer and more time on other things?
The problem may not be soccer practice or business responsibilities that’s crowding out our prayer time. The problem is likely connected to a lack of time in God’s Word. Those who spend time in the Word typically spend time in prayer as well. The neglect of God’s Word precipitates a neglect of prayer. According to a Pew Forum research study, there’s a direct connection between the frequency of the study of Scripture and prayer.
As we read Psalm 119, we find the opening section focused on God’s Word and the importance of the precepts, statutes, testimonies, commandments, and rules of God. In verse four, the psalmist writes:
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
This is what God has commanded—that his Word be kept with diligence. So, what does the psalmist do next? He prays! In verse five we find the following words of the psalmist:
Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
The reading and meditation of God’s Word resulted in the psalmist turning to God in prayer to request that God would keep him steadfastly focused on obeying God’s Word. If that’s true of the psalmist—it’s likely the same result for us today. Thomas Brooks once said, “The best and sweetest flowers of Paradise God gives to His people when they are upon their knees. Prayer is the gate of heaven, a key to let us in to Paradise.” The more we read and internalize God’s Word, the more we will need to pray.
- We will need to pray as a result of seeing the imperfections and faults in our own life. The Holy Spirit reveals sin and confronts our hearts through the Scriptures.
- We will need to pray to request God’s strength in order to walk faithfully in obedience.
- We will want to pray in order to praise God and worship him.
- We will desire to pray in order to make our needs known to God.
- We will have a desire to pray out of thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings—none of which are greater than the blood sacrifice of his Son for our redemption.
Rather than trying to figure out tricks that would enable you to pray to God more efficiently—why not begin with carving out time to spend in God’s Word which will result in a desire to respond to God in prayer? Prayer and God’s Word go together as the psalmist exemplifies in Psalm 119:4-5.
As we look at the broken world around us socially and feel the intensity of the political pressures—we should be moved to pray. When leaders fail or fall, we should be moved to pray. Jerry Bridges once wrote these words:
Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But while God’s sovereignty, along with his wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of that trust. 
God is sovereign over every detail and he controls the ruler’s heart—turning it whatever way he so desires. Let us remember these words and follow in the footsteps of faithful men like the psalmist who points us to the sufficient Word and exemplifies a life of consistent prayer.
- Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988), 107.
Music is medicinal for the the troubled soul. When King Saul was troubled, he would have David play the harp as a means of soothing his weary soul. When we find ourselves going through trials and seasons of terror—the people of God should turn to the songs of Scripture to be reminded of the greatness and majesty of God. The purpose of the Psalms is to exalt and magnify God. Through the different Psalms, we may encounter:
- People Worshiping
- People Crying
However, in all that we encounter in these beautiful poetic songs, we must turn our attention to the God who is ruling and reigning over his creation at all times. Martin Luther, commenting on the Psalms, once said that the Psalms are “The Bible in miniature.”
The 46th Psalm is a wonderful song that puts on display God’s robust sovereignty and reminds us of the fact that God is with his people and upholds them by his divine strength. When Martin Luther would go through intense struggles and trials in life, he would often gather his friends together and sing this theologically rich song to comfort his soul.
God Is Our Refuge in Times of Natural Disasters
Even if the earth shakes and the mountains are moved—according to the Psalmist—God is our refuge. Some of the most terrifying times in life are in the midst of a natural disaster. From the high winds of a tornado or a relentless hurricane to mudslides and forest fires—people find themselves at the breaking point emotionally as they endure through such calamities.
In recent days, we have watched hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, smash into the coast of Texas on August 25th 2017. It caused over 180 billion dollars in damage and took more than 70 lives in the process. Not long after Harvey came Irma, a category 5 storm that ran up the coast of Florida causing more than $100 million dollars in damage and claiming more than 75 lives.
Where can we turn during the midst of such powerful storms? According to the Psalmist—we can turn to God. Not long after the hurricanes hit, the earthquake in Mexico City caused massive buildings to crash and it claimed more than 350 lives in an instant. Where can we turn in the wake of such tragedies? We can turn to our God.
God Is Our Fortress When Nations Rage and Clash
Certainly God’s people understood what it was like to experience the horrible pressures of war, famine, and threats of national enemies. According to the Psalmist, God had saved his people. According to Psalm 46:6-7, “he nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” We are not told what the exact situation was, but in some way, God devoured the enemies and saved his people. This gave birth to this Psalm where the people of God would sing and remember the great work of God.
When nations flex their military muscle and clash in war—what power do they display that can compare to the power of God. The Psalmist writes, “he utters his voice, the earth melts” (vs. 6). When enemies of our nation flex their nuclear muscle—we can trust in our God. When terrorists plot against God’s Church—we can trust in our God. He is with us!
God Is Our Fortress—Be Still and Know
Whatever the circumstances were that the Psalmist seems to be alluding to in this psalm, we are not sure. However, what we are sure of is the fact that God has delivered his people. That has been the case all throughout the history of God’s people!
- God delivered Moses and Israel from Pharaoh
- God delivered David from Goliath
- God delivered David from Saul
All throughout the OT – we see that God is constantly delivering his people from their enemies. Just do a quick word search regarding “enemies” in the Psalms and you will see that there are 56 occurrences of this word. God will be exalted among the nations. Everyone is to know that He is God. We are called – as God’s children – to be still and know that he is God.
We are to consider the great works of God. We are to be still and consider these things. We are to know that he is God—and by direct contrast—there is no other. In the days of Martin Luther, in the wake of his bold stand before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the translation of the German Bible—the Black Death hit Europe. While approximately 33% of all of the population of Europe was taken by the plague, in some local areas, the numbers extended as high as 50-70%. Luther opened his home as a hospital to care for people. With the looming pressures of the Roman Catholic Church and the stench of the Black Plague surrounding him, he would turn to Psalm 46 in song. It would be during this time that he would pen the words to his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
For Luther, he understood that God was bigger and more valuable than anything this world had to offer him. God was bigger than his enemies. God was stronger than the Wartburg Castle. God was more powerful than the Black Plague.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
Biblical poetry is more than fancy words of rhyme! The poetic words of Scripture lead us in worship but instruct us in theology. Consider the influence of Shakespeare on the literary world. For those of us within the church, we know about the powerful influence of poetry as we sing beautiful hymns of praise each week. From the words of Charles Wesley to Issac Watts, we sing many songs of worship that are both beautiful pieces of poetry and instructional worshipful songs that exalt Jesus Christ our Lord! Some of the most beautiful songs we sing are full of rich theology. William Cowper once wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.” Allow those words to sink in! What rich theology. He wrote another song that is extremely popular. The words are as follows:There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.Notice how the poem is structured in such a way that it reveals a message. The poem not only rhymes, but it serves as a teaching method as well. In a similar way, the Psalms we find in our Bible do the same thing. Originally written for instruction and praise, they were later collected and used for worship. As we read the Psalms in our Bible, we are confronted with powerful words of beauty and worship. However, as we read them we also encounter pain, discouragement, fear, persecution, and the stark realities of life. John Piper once remarked, “So it has been all through redemptive history. The more the people of God have suffered—the more they have been forced to live on the brink of eternity where things are real and all sham and shallowness is blown away—the deeper and more beautiful has been the music and hymnody of the church.”Throughout the Psalms that are contained in our Bible, we are confronted with many wonderful biblical doctrines. It would be foolish to read the Psalms without gleaning the truths they contain. Below are just a few examples of the truths found in the Psalms.I. The Doctrine of God’s Sovereignty
- Psalm 93:1 – God is the ruling and reigning King.
- Psalm 96:10 – The LORD (God) reigns!
- Psalm 99 – God is Holy.
- Psalm 104 – God created all things!
- Psalm 107:23-28 – God is in control of all nature!
- Psalm 115, 135 – God rules and does as He pleases.
II. The Doctrine of Man
- Psalm 2 – The heathen rages and the people imagine a vain thing.
- Psalm 5 – There is no truth in the mouth of the wicked.
- Psalm 7:14 – The wicked man is pregnant with mischief.
- Psalm 14 – The fool says there is no God. There is none good! All have turned away from God.
- Psalm 51:4-5 – From conception, man is a sinner!
- Psalm 130 – Nobody is without guilt from transgression against God.
III. The Doctrine of Election
- Psalm 4:3 – The LORD has set apart the godly as a special people.
- Psalm 33:12 – Israel is described as the chosen nation.
- Psalm 65:4 – The chosen of God are brought near to Him.
- Psalm 105:6 – All of Abraham’s offspring are God’s chosen ones.
- Psalm 106:4-5 – Another reference to the chosen ones of God.
IV. The Doctrine of RedemptionThere is a constant theme of redemption in the Psalms. For instance, in Psalm 16:10, we see these words, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” It is later that these words are attributed to the resurrection of Christ!V. The Doctrine of Scripture
- Psalm 1 – The Psalmist points to the Law of the Lord.
- Psalm 119 – A treasure of truth that exalts the Word of God.
- Psalm 119:89 – The Word is settled in Heaven – forever.
Words of Anger:Psalm 55:15 – Let death seize upon them, [and] let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness [is] in their dwellings, [and] among them.Psalm 109:9 – Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.Psalm 137:9 – Happy [shall he be], that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.Words of Beauty:Psalm 23 – One of the most beautiful Psalms!Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.Psalm 30:5 – For his anger [endureth but] a moment; in his favour [is] life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy [cometh] in the morning.Words of Worship:Psalm 30:4 – Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.Psalm 33:2 – Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery [and] an instrument of ten strings.Psalm 150 – Singing and playing of multiple instruments as worship unto the LORD!Therefore, the words of the Psalms in our Bible are not just short poems without any relevance to our personal lives today! They are rich in theology and often born out of tragedy and trial. We need to read the Old Testament in such a way that we not only respect the inspiration of God’s Word, but in such a way that we sense the sufficiency of Holy Scripture for our personal lives. God’s Word is true and relevant! It is in the Psalms that we see great theology, but it is also in the Psalms that we see Jesus Christ our Lord!Read the Psalms – learn from the Psalms – worship from the Psalms!Pastor Josh Buice