Sermon from March 13th, 2016

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“Psalm 143 - A Lesson in How to Pray”

Psalm 143; Matthew 26:36-46

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning! Today we finish our Lenten sermon series on the 7 Penitential Psalms. These Psalms are prayers of confession, of repentance, cries for help, admission of our weakness, grief, even anger.  They were written to be used, to be sung by the whole congregation in public worship. They are honest, vulnerable, and above all else, focused on the Lord as the only one who can deliver us in times of trouble.

Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 143 – a Psalm of David.  I believe Jesus knew this Psalm by heart. I’m sure he prayed it many times during his short life on earth. Question: Did Jesus get these words from David who wrote them a thousand years before he was born? Or did David get them from Jesus who is the eternal Word of God? I think both are true.

There was something about the way Jesus prayed that fascinated the disciples. They’d never heard anyone pray as he did. He prayed as if he and God were in some kind of continuous intimate relationship of love and trust and partnership. He didn’t just pray when he got in a jam, he prayed every day, all the time, about everything.

It was so amazing the disciples asked him to teach them to pray like that.  Remember what he said? He said, “When you pray, pray like this, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Day by day, the disciples watched Jesus get up before dawn and go off to a solitary place to pray before he began an exhausting day healing, teaching, driving out demons.  When he was in Jerusalem, that place was the Garden of Gethsemane a half mile east of town.

Matthew tells us that before Jesus began his public ministry he spent 40 days in the wilderness. What was he doing? He must have been praying. What was he praying? “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”  “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

Jesus had the power to command stones baking in the sun to become bread, but he didn’t. He waited for his Father to supply. Where did he get that strength?  He prayed.

Every day after beginning his ministry, Jesus found himself blasphemed and ridiculed. He could have called down fire from heaven on them. But didn’t he - even from the cross. Where did he get the patience and strength?  It must have been his time in prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Can we learn to pray like that?  Psalm 143 is a lesson in prayer. As we examine it, I want you to think of Jesus. Imagine him praying this prayer of David as he went about his daily ministry. We even see this Psalm in his prayers from the cross. Psalm 143…

“O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” Psalm 143:1-2 This isn’t a prayer when we need help, it’s a prayer that we need help. We need God’s mercy all the time whether we are aware of it or not. My faithfulness and my righteousness are hopelessly inadequate. But the LORD is there for me, if I will call on him.

How incredible that you and I have a direct line 24/7 to the Creator of the universe. No one on earth is as available as He is.  He loves us and he longs to hear the sound of our voice.

Look at verse 2. David knows he’s done nothing to deserve God’s help. In fact, just the opposite is true, what he deserves is God’s judgment, yet he trusts God enough to come to him for help.  God doesn’t answer our prayers because we’ve done anything to earn it.  Just the opposite is true. He helps us because he loves us and we need help.

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.” Psalm 143:3-4

Is this a physical enemy or a spiritual enemy?  It’s both, but primarily it’s spiritual. The darkness Satan spins around us is seen in hopelessness, confusion, chaos. Sin kills, but the Lord raises the dead to life so we can respond to his love. The Bible says “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light”.  That great light is Jesus! He shows us the way to go.

“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all you works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you. My soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” Psalm 143:5-6

We often find ourselves in situations where we can’t see the way ahead of us. But we can look back behind us and see that the Lord has led us through trial after trial.  It’s important to read the Bible because it is the record of God’s faithfulness. The same God that was faithful to Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Esther in the trials and circumstances they faced– will be faithful to us whatever circumstances we face.

David prays, “When I remember that, I spread out my hands to you.”  That means I lift my hands in praise. It also means I open my hands to receive what the Lord has for me. Instead of closing my hands into fists prepared to fight my own way through, I open my hands to the Lord in trust to receive what he has prepared for me whatever that might be.

See that little petition, “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”? This is vital to understand.  What do you thirst for? The things God can provide for you or God himself? Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.”

“Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.” Psalm 143:7-9

When I read these words, I think of Jesus. I envision him praying these words every morning before he heads to ministry. Even as a member of the Trinity, fully God, he was completely dependent upon his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.  He never played the lone ranger. He knew the power he had came from His Father through him.

He did nothing on his own. How different from us. We know nothing of the power Jesus possessed, yet we take off on our own all the time. We think we can do it ourselves. We think we are strong enough, smart enough, why pray? We’ll let God know if we need him. Jesus demonstrated what our relationship with God should be like. He gave us the example of the vine and the branches. He said, “Without me, you can do nothing.”   The truth is, our next heartbeat, our next breath, even the atoms in our bodies hold together at his command.

Whether we believe it or not, he is a part of everything we do. He’s our source, not just when we run into a jam, but all the time. Maybe we should tape these words to our bathroom mirror and pray them every morning as we begin our day.  Let’s pray these words together again.
“Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.” Psalm 143:7-9

Remember these words from Psalm 130? “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.  I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6

We all face endless nights in this world. But the Lord has never failed to bring the dawn. Satan may try, but he cannot stop the sun from coming up any more than he could stop Jesus from rising from the dead on that first Easter morning.

Even at the lowest point in the history of Israel, the prophet Jeremiah saw the sunrise as a daily sign that God had not forgotten his people. He wrote, “I remember and therefore I have hope… Because of the Lord’s steadfast love, we are not consumed (we are still here!) for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam 3:21-23

Let’s pray on… “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.” Psalm 143:10-12

David trusts God’s will more than his own. How about you? Prayer is never about getting God to do our will. It’s about getting ourselves in line with God’s will. Our natural self rebels against this. We want our will to be done. We want our kingdom to come. Jesus faced this temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed, “Father, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

Note that word “your” in David’s final petition. “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For Your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In Your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am Your servant.” Psalm 143:10-12

Has your faith grown to the point where you can make this your prayer? Paul wrote “You are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price. So glorify God with your body (and all that you have and all that you are).” 1 Cor 6:20  

Will you pray with me? “Heavenly Father, we want to learn to pray like Jesus. We want to learn to let go of our will, so that your will can be done, morning by morning and day by day. We know that in order for that to happen, some things need to change in our hearts. So we ask you to come in through the power of your Holy Spirit. Clean out the stuff that doesn’t belong there.
Help us come to you like Jesus did.  Morning by morning get us in sync with you so we can meet the trials, the temptations, the demands that each day will bring.  Help us die to ourselves so that you can raise us up to new life in you. Take control of every aspect of our lives.  We want Jesus to reign in our lives, not just as the one who forgives our sin, but the one who we follow as our Lord and King. In His name,


Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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