Lent 3b (Series - Psalm 25: Our Heartfelt Prayer)
Preached: March 11, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Today we begin a three-week sermon series on Christian prayer based on Psalm 25, a Psalm that flows from King David's heart, as the Holy Spirit moves him to pray and gives him these words. Please give your attention to the first five verses of Psalm 25
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be put to shame. Do not let my enemies gloat over me. Indeed, no one who hopes in you will be put to shame. Let the wantonly deceitful be shamed.
Make your ways known to me, O Lord. Teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me. For you are God, my Savior. In you I hope all day long. (Psalm 25:1-5).
This is the word of our Lord.
Texting. Fast food. Drive-through banking. We don’t like waiting. And to be honest, some kinds of waiting are a waste of time. Waiting on hold, waiting for commercials, waiting in line -- often we could be doing something more beneficial.
But there’s another kind of waiting, a waiting of eager expectation and anticipation, such as waiting to open Christmas gifts, waiting for Grandpa and Grandma to come, waiting for the spring thaw and green grass and that newness of life in the air -- you know what I mean. That kind of waiting is filled with hope that longs for the good that’s coming. That’s the kind of hope that filled David as he prayed. That’s the kind of hope that fills you and me as we call out with him, “My hope waits for you, O my God! My hope waits for you!” That’s the theme today.
My hope waits for you, O my God. So I lift up my soul to you in trust. (That’s part one.) Teach me your truth, O Savior. (That’s part two.)
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:1-3 NIV1984).
What a picture of prayer is in these words: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul!” You lift up something that’s fallen down, that’s low to the ground. How wretched and lowly we are! My soul is corrupted by sin, devastated by guilt, knocked down day after day by my failures to do what God commands. And if that’s the condition of my soul, how much worse must my heart and mind and body be! My conscience accuses me. God’s Law convicts me. I stand condemned by my own works.
But the Lord, the gracious God, has freely made his saving promises and faithfully keeps them. He lifts up your soul. Look at Christ crucified. God’s Son lowered himself into the dust and ashes of my sin. He became sin for you and me to lift us up out of the depths we were born into. Christ crucified. He bought you with his holy, precious blood to be his very own, so that you trust him as your God and through faith in him you are his people. What a wonder! What grace! He lifts us up to be his people. With David call out to him, “You are my God in whom I trust. For you have purchased me to be your very own.” He has kept his promises. He is the Lord, your God.
So, dear Christians, we lift up our soul to him, who has made us his own. Like smoke rising from an altar, our prayers ascend to the Lord, our God. They ascend not because of any innate worth in us. We are like the ashes left on the altar. Our prayers ascend because of Jesus. Like the fire that sends up the smoke, so faith that trusts in Jesus burns in our hearts, lifting up our soul in prayer. And just as faith is much more than outwards words claiming to follow Jesus, so also prayer comes from deep within. It comes from our soul. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God” (Psalm 25:1, 2 NIV1984).
We lift up our souls in prayer with that hope that eagerly waits for the Lord to answer. Yet sometime he seems so slow in keeping his promises. Has our trust been misplaced? Will we be left feeling ashamed that we counted on him?
At times David struggled with those same doubts. Maybe when we think of David, we picture the young David facing Goliath. Against impossible odds, he faced that giant trusting in the Lord alone. And by the end of the day people were celebrating his victory. Not much waiting there.
But there’s more to David’s life, dear friends. Through Samuel the Lord had promised David that he would be the next king of Israel. But how did David spend the prime of his life? Running like an outlaw, hiding in caves, never staying too long in one place, separated from his family and his dearest friend, Jonathan. You see King Saul tried to hunt David down. In the end David ended up hiding among the Philistines, which is where Goliath had come from. How upside down it all seemed! Don’t you think as the months dragged on, there were times when David wondered if he would ever be king. Would he even survive? In whom could he hope? In whom could he trust?
But as he lifted up his soul in prayer, he knew the Lord was faithful. His trust in the Lord would not be put to shame. For the Lord never fails those whose hope is in him. As David prayers he thinks not only of himself and his own troubles, he prayers for all of God’s people. “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3 NIV1984), he says.
That includes you, dear Christian. Because of Jesus, your hope is in the Lord. Since Jesus and his promises are the foundation of your trust, your hope stands firm and sure. Remember that, as you face the long trials of this life. Don’t build your hope on empty promises dreamed up by the world or your own imagination. God has not promised an easy life, a successful life, or even a pleasant one. But he has promised to protect your soul as you rely on him and finally to deliver you from this world of sorrow, the valley of tears, by bringing you to his heavenly home. Until that day the journey can be rough and hope may appear dim, but in the end you will not be put to shame as long as you hold on to Jesus. So no matter what you are going through, call out to the Lord your God: I lift up my soul to you in trust.
Your hope is in Jesus. You depend on him, trusting him for all that’s good, trusting him to wash you clean and present you as holy before your heavenly Father. Hope depends on Jesus. And so hope desires Jesus, longing for him, lifting up your soul to him, thirsting and hungering for him. And he will not disappoint. Such hope built on his promises will not put you to shame. Such hope waits for the Lord, our God.
And us your hope waits for the Lord, hope longs to learn all that our Lord wants to teach us. Hope delights in his truth, devoted to his Word. So you pray with David, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4, 5 NIV1984). As your hope waits for your God, you pray: Teach me your truth, O Savior.
Let’s expand those first three phrases. We pray with David: “Show me your ways, O Lord. Let me see on the pages of Scripture how you revealed your saving plan. Throughout the ages since you first promised Adam and Eve a Savior to crush Satan’s head, your word has unraveled that mystery until Jesus and his cross fulfilled what you had promised. How marvelous is your way of salvation, O Lord! Let me see it as I study your word.”
We keep praying with David: “Teach me your paths. Let me not only see your plan of salvation, but engrave it on my heart and mind. Teach my inmost being so that false doctrine does not lead me astray nor Satan’s lies deceive me. Teach me your paths so that I may contemplate them day and night and meditate on them as I wait for you, O Lord. Teach me your paths, which your word alone makes known.”
We keep praying with David: “Guide me in your truth. Guide me to walk the road of my life according to your will, which I can only know from your Word. Keep my footsteps from sinning. Make me a blessing to my companions along the way, so that all I do glorifies you. Keep directing me through the narrow gate. Guide me in the truth. Your Word is truth.”
Do you see, dear friends, how prayer that comes from deep within is also prayer that cherishes God’s Word? For true prayer can only sprout up from his Word that’s taken root in our heart. If our prayers are shallow isn’t that because our desire to grow in God’s Word has become shallow? The solution isn’t to change our praying technique or to try to be more sincere. The solution is to dig deeper and deeper into his word, planting his truth in our hearts day after day. So we pray: Teach me your truth, O Savior. And he answers as you study his Word.
How our hope in the Lord grows weak and impatient when we fail to feed it with God’s Word! Look how often your body needs food to remain strong. Feed your hope with God’s truth, not with the junk food of the world’s wisdom or the poison of lies masquerading as spiritual truths. Feed your hope with Christ crucified. Teach me your truth, O Savior.
For you see, hope that waits for the Lord is hope that’s devoted to God’s truth, just as that soldier is devoted to honor the memory of his comrade who gave his life to save his. Hope delights in God’s truth, just as a soldier away from home delights in that letter from his beloved wife, eagerly waiting to see her again. My hope waits for you, O Savior. Teach me your truth.
So take to heart Psalm 25, dear Christian. For this is not only a prayer that comes from deep within David’s heart. It’s also a prayer verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded in Scripture because it is the word of God. Engrave it on your heart, so that you too pray from deep within: “My hope waits for you, O my God. So I lift up my soul to you in trust. Teach me your truth, O Savior.”
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.