“MORNING DEVOTIONS: What It Is To Pray”
1. Sometimes a Christian can make things more complicated than they need to be. And this is as true when it comes to morning devotions as it is with anything else.
2. John R. Rice, in his classic book on prayer, pretty well sums it up in the title, “Prayer: Asking And Receiving.” Prayer to God is quite simply asking for things from God and receiving answers from God.
3. If Psalm 63.1-2 describes morning devotions, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary,” then my text for this evening describes that portion of your morning devotions which is prayer.
4. Turn, please, to Psalm 25.1-2, and stand for the reading of God’s Word:
1 Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
5. These two verses of the 25th Psalm are oftentimes sung as a chorus. How many of you have ever sung these two verses as a chorus? Come on up here and let’s sing these two verses for everyone, and then brother Isenberger can lead us through the chorus several times.
6. That’s a chorus learned in a couple of minutes that you can take with you the rest of your life. And whenever you sing that chorus, be reminded by the words what it means to pray.
1A. First, WE HAVE IN VERSE 1 A PICTURE OF PRAYER
Please take note of the three characteristics of this picture of prayer, which so perfectly sums up praying:
1B. First, Prayer Is Personal
1C. By personal, I mean that when someone prays, when he is really praying, he must pray to someone. You don’t just indiscriminately throw out a prayer into the darkness of the night sky or into the first rays of the morning’s sun. No. You pray to someone.
2C. And to whom was David’s prayer directed? “Unto thee, O LORD.” David intensely personalized his prayer by speaking the words to the LORD, the covenant making and covenant keeping God of Israel. He actually called out the name of his God in his prayer.
3C. But since the relationship of the Christian in this dispensation is actually somewhat different than the relationship David had with God, I would suggest that we pray after the manner of the Lord Jesus Christ’s instruction, which is to pray to the Father.
4C. So prayer is personal, from you to God; from you to the Father.
2B. Next, Prayer Is Purposeful
1C. By purposeful, I am referring to the fact that prayer is the result of your intention, the result of your conscious choice. Prayer directed to God is rightly the result of an intelligent selection that has been made, a decision that has been made to communicate to your Father.
2C. Prayer is an act of will by the person who prays. “Unto thee, O LORD, do I . . . .” Thus, prayer is something I do. Prayer is something you do.
3C. Now, for it to be real prayer to the real God, that prayer must necessarily be originated in your bosom by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, Who is the Author of all real prayer to the Father.
4C. But the grace of God aside, and the unseen and unfelt working of the Holy Spirit in you not presently considered, prayer is something you decide to do. “Unto thee, O LORD, do I . . . .” This is what I mean by purposeful.
3B. Third, Prayer Is A Presentation
“. . . do I lift up my soul.”
1C. Imagine a subject approaching his king with his most valuable treasure to offer up as a gift, as a token of his love, as a demonstration of his loyalty, as an attempt to show the king’s exalted position and his own humble devotion.
2C. That’s the picture here of prayer. What is it you are offering up to God when you approach the throne of grace, when you come before Him in Jesus’ precious name? You are offering up to your God, afresh and anew, that which is most valuable to you, that which is the very essence of “I,” your own soul.
3C. Imagine taking on the day after you have personally, purposefully, presented your soul to the One Who is high and lifted up. Imagine how much more difficult you have now made it to stoop low in sin after you have climbed so high in prayer.
4C. And consider how difficult you have made it to give your soul to sinning after you have consciously given your soul already for that day to God.
5C. Wake up tomorrow morning and lift up to God in prayer your eternal and undying soul. After doing that can you comfortably perform every kind of job? Can you sell liquor? Can you gamble? Can you watch nasty movies? Can you look at dirty pictures? I suppose you could, but it would be much more difficult.
6C. Wake up each morning of the week and lift up your soul to God. Now, when Sunday comes around, after you have lifted up your soul to God, can you then go to work instead of go to Church? Can you then serve yourself instead of serve God?
7C. Do you want to know why Gary Isenberger’s dad would not work Sundays, could not work Sundays? Same reason why Dr. Harju once told me that those Finlander Lutheran farmers, in that upper peninsula of Michigan community he grew up in, simply would not bring in their crops on Sunday, no matter what the weather.
8C. You see, they had lifted their souls that morning in their private devotional time. And, like Abram said after communing with Melchizedek, when he was offered goods by the king of Sodom, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich,” Genesis 14.22-23.
9C. Oh, so many things simply fall into place in a man’s life once he lifts up his soul to his God in morning devotional prayer. Not perfectly, mind you. Neither sinlessless. But so much more frequently. I think the man who profanes the sabbath is a man who has no right understanding of morning devotions.
2A. Next, WE HAVE IN VERSE 2 THE PLEADINGS OF PRAYER
“O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”
Again, three brief observations:
1B. First, Observe Who You Pray To
“O my God”
1C. There is something good and wholesome and proper about a man’s possession of his God. Recognize that God wants to be possessed in this fashion, since possession does not mean you circumscribe God, since possession does not here mean that you own God, really, but that you are owned by God.
2C. And does this not fit perfectly the picture we are given in verse 1? Prayers are to be personal. They are to be directed and not scattered, to God and not to the sky in shotgun fashion.
3C. This pleading of prayer is directed, pointedly, to David’s God, who he designates “my God.” And so, too, are your prayers to be directed.
4C. Not to the Holy Spirit, Who is never prayed to even one time in the Word of God. Not to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who along with the precious Holy Spirit works to intercede in a Christian’s praying, and should not be the One prayed to.
5C. My friend, a Christian’s praying is to be directed to his Father in heaven, understanding that the Holy Spirit will intercede from His place in the Christian’s heart, and the Lord Jesus Christ will intercede from His place at the Father’s right hand. I do not think it is found otherwise in the New Testament.
2B. Second, Why You Pray
“O my God, I trust in thee”
1C. This word “trust” has a bit of the flavor of hiding in a place of refuge. But it also refers to having confidence in someone, relying upon someone. It speaks of faith. And so it is here.
2C. The reason why you pray to God is because you rely on Him. And the reason you do not pray to God is because you do not rely on Him.
3C. Excuse me, but where you flee for safety and refuge and security, Who you cry out to for help and deliverance, shows where your trust is. If prayer to God is not your first resort in trouble then God is not the One you trust.
4C. David did not turn to God when all other avenues of escape or help were exhausted. He turned to God first. And so should you turn to God first. Not only in emergencies, but also first thing, at the beginning of each and every day.
5C. So, why you pray is because you trust God.
3B. Finally, What You Pray For
“let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”
We see two types of pleadings in these two phrases:
1C. First, there is a pleading that deals with David’s relationship with God. “Let me not be ashamed.” Your pleadings with God should always have first to do with your own relationship with God. And do not think that is selfish. Notice the sequence in Paul’s directive to the preachers from Ephesus in Acts 20.28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” Rightly understood, you must tend to your relationship with God first, before you are any good to anyone else.
2C. Then, there is a pleading that deals with David’s relationship with others. And at this time in his life he had enemies seeking his life, so he plainly asked God for victory over those enemies. And this is not like asking God to give your sports team a victory, which trivializes prayer, in my judgment. No. This is an issue of right versus wrong, good versus evil, with David being on God’s side and his enemies being God’s enemies. In such a circumstance as that it is right and proper and good to pray for victory over your enemies.
1. So, a rather brief sermon on the kind of praying you should do in your morning devotions. Personal, purposeful, and in a fashion presenting your soul to God afresh and anew.
2. And there should be some pleadings in your praying, since praying is asking and receiving. Pray to God. Pray because you trust God. And pray for your relationship with God and your relationship with others, whatever your needs may happen to be.
3. Now, let’s stand once again and sing that delightful chorus that forms this evening’s text before we are dismissed.
John R. Rice, Prayer: Asking And Receiving, (Sword of the Lord Press)
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