Tags: Biblical prayer, Biblical prayers, commentary on Psalms, Heman, importunity, Luke 11, prayer, Psalm 88, purpose of prayer, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
In part one we saw that Heman, the psalmist of Psalm 88, prayed openly. Now we see that he also prayed obstinately.
O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
Praying day and night, praying with tears and grasping hands, praying first thing in the morning, as though the Lord would hear our prayers before He even (figuratively, of course) begins HIS day – this is what is called praying with importunity. And, while it may be an annoyance to us when someone pesters us this way, it does not bother the Lord.
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
This asking and this seeking and this knocking is an insistent, faithful, and strenuous calling out to the Lord in prayer, which may very well incline Him to respond. Regardless of whether He grants our plea or not, though, it pleases Him because it teaches us dedication and persistence, and because it brings us to intentionally spend time with Him in the awareness of His presence.
Next time we will see that Heman even prayed obnoxiously!
Tags: Biblical prayers, commentary on Psalms, condescension, depression, depression in the Bible, lamentation, prayer, Psalm 88, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
[[A Song [or] Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.]] O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
Heman was a musician and a Levite. He was an overseer of music (not lyrics) in the Temple. He was also a prophet, and was renowned for his wisdom.
For he [Solomon] was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about.
I Kings 4:31
In Psalm 88 he was inspired to write a psalm for the sons of Korah, meaning it would be included on a regular basis as part of Temple worship. It is a song based explicitly on Heman’s life and personal experiences, but also inspired by the Holy Spirit. We get the true feelings of Heman, although the articulation of them is breathed through him by the Holy Spirit, and Heman’s feelings are grief, pain, terror, sorrow, frustration, and utter despair.
Psalm 88 is roundly considered by all its commentators to be the saddest Psalm, and perhaps the saddest chapter in the whole Bible. It is in some ways the least hopeful, the most discouraging, the least joyful. So why study it? So that we may prepare for our own coming distress or depression, or make some sense of – and glean some truths about – some period of suffering we may already be experiencing. Because, whatever your view of Heman’s reaction to his suffering, his complaining, his groaning, his self-pity, you will have to admit that he did the one thing the Lord would unquestionably have us to do if we ever find ourselves in this condition: He prayed.
I. Heman prayed openly.
O LORD God of my salvation…
This might be the one glimmer of brightness in the whole psalm – and it comes at the beginning. Heman knew God was his Savior. Therefore, he addresses the only One Who can help, and, as he views the entire universe to be against him, he addresses his pleas and petitions to the Master of the Universe. You and I, when we find ourselves in despair or danger, must openly seek help from the only One who can truly provide it.
Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
Do not sit there sobbing, hoping that the Master will notice you. Address him specifically and boldly. Heman asks God to “incline” (in modern English we would probably say “recline”) His ear – to stoop down – to condescend. This may sound presumptuous, but it is an open statement of the obvious fact that, if the sovereign Lord of all creation is to deal with us, He must (and He has proven that He will) stoop down to our lowly and pitiable level.
Heman is honest about his mental condition:
For my soul is full of troubles…
He admits that he has become consumed with his fears and has trouble focusing in his prayers.
… while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
How easily are we distracted in prayer? Did you know you can actually ask the Lord to help you focus in prayer as part of your prayers?
Next time, we will see that Heman also prayed obstinately.
Tags: Biblical prayers, commentary on Nehemiah, confession, God's glory, great prayers in the Bible, Nehemiah 10, Nehemiah 9, revival, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah
As the the people remembered God, they remembered that:
God is good.
And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
God is great.
Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
God is gracious.
And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
God is generous.
And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.
God is glorious.
Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;
Nehemiah Chapter 10 presents the evidence of the sincerity in the prayer of Chapter 9. Are you asking God for a revival in your nation? In your church? In your family? In your own heart? A revival is not a religious show or a religious exercise. It is a surrender to the Word of God.
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;
We must approach the Bible with humility, willing to admit there is much we do not yet know. We must also be willing to separate from the world as we immerse ourselves in the Word of God.
And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
The test of whether you are experiencing a true revival is not what you “feel” during a church service. The test is in how we live afterward. Many of us study Bible lessons on a regular basis – and that’s good – but then we quit. We need to study a Bible lesson, and then live a Bible lesson. We expect God’s blessings for keeping “part” of the covenant, but we ignore the fact that God isn’t likely to bless a disobedient child.
Tags: Biblical prayers, commentary on Ezra, confession, Daniel 9, Ezra 9, fasting, Nehemiah 9, Sunday School lessons on Ezra
Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
One of the most common areas where “exiled” believers fell into unholiness is in the area of sexual immorality. The Jewish men had lusted after foreign women – unbelievers – which was forbidden. We might say, “Well, at least they married them,” but that argument becomes preposterous when you realize that they divorced their Jewish wives to do it! (Malachi 2:10-16)
Ezra found out this was going on because people told him about it. Did this make them a bunch of tattletales or gossip-mongers? No, because the offenders were their spiritual leaders. Ezra did not ignore this information, or sweep it under the rug. He did not preach an ambiguous sermon about it. He did not rush out in anger and confront them about it. No, he began to pray, weep, grieve, tear his clothes, pull out his hair and beard, and confess.
And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.
Are we this shocked over the sins of God’s people and our own sins?
And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
Ezra experienced this “heaviness” as a result of his fasting, and he fasted not to obtain God’s favor, but because he was too sick to eat. Are we sickened by the sin of our spiritual leaders?
Father, I pray that we would return from any areas of our lives where we have been in spiritual exile, and that we would put to use the great gifts You have given us. In the name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.