Praying for Your Life – Psalm 27

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Psalm 27:1-14

INTRODUCTION: Have you ever been in a situation where you were literally praying for your life? I remember when Rose, Ramón and I went through Hurricane Andrew back in 1992. As the wind knocked out the windows and ripped up sections of the roof, and as water poured into the house and gathered at our feet, we really didn’t know if we were going to live or die. We were literally praying for our lives.

Well, David in this Psalm is praying for his life. We are not sure of the exact historical situation. Charles Spurgeon guesses it may have been when David was on the run from King Saul – pursued by enemies, shut out from the house of the Lord, separated from his parents, slandered by false witnesses – it all seems to fit. No matter what the situation, it was clearly a time of incredible crisis and stress, and David finds himself praying for his life.

Where do you go when life hits you with a crisis? Where do you turn when the going gets tough? Do you go to God? Do you pray in those situations? I hope so. But more importantly, how do you pray during a crisis? Many people are not prepared to pray in a crisis, especially if that is the only time that they pray. Their prayers are more cries of panic than anything else, very different from the attitude in prayer David models for us here in this Psalm.

In the Psalm before us we find a prayer of absolute trust and confidence in the midst of trial. So, let’s look at this Psalm together and see what we can learn from David about praying for your life.

I. Praying in times of crisis (verses 1-3)

   A. Remember that the Lord is your strength (1)

Look at verse 1. David begins by saying, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” He claims God as his own. Notice his personal relationship with God: “my light, my salvation.” Is the Lord your light, your salvation? Do you know God in this intimate way? Light is that which dispels the darkness. In the Bible light can stand for life, God’s blessing, or God’s favor. The word for salvation here is “yeshua,” the Hebrew name for Jesus. It is a word that speaks of God’s ability to save and deliver from harm.

David says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” If you were in the midst of a hurricane, and you were in a small mobile trailer, then you might have cause for concern. But if you were in an underground, concrete bomb shelter, then you would have nothing to worry about. Why? Because you would be in a strong place of protection. When God is the strength of your life, when the Lord Almighty is your stronghold, you also are in a strong place of protection. If God is for us who can be against us? David wasn’t afraid, because God was that strong place of protection for him.

So who or what is the strength of your life? What supports you, upholds you, sustains you through the daily struggles of life? Where do you look for your strength? David’s first secret to praying in a crisis was that God was very personal to him. He was David’s light and salvation, and the stronghold of his life. In times of crisis, remember that the Lord is your strength.

    B. Realize that your enemies will stumble and fall (2)

Another reason David had confidence in prayer was the inevitable outcome of his enemies. Look at verse 2. “When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” David describes his enemies in graphic terms. They are evil men; they advance against him; they are ready to devour his flesh. He pictures them as wild animals with no compassion or mercy. But when they attack him, David says “they will stumble and fall.” It’s one thing if your enemy stumbles and then keeps coming right at you. But David says they will stumble and fall. They will not succeed in their efforts against him.

The word “they” is emphatic in the Hebrew. “When they attack me, they will stumble and fall.” The stone they roll against David will roll back on them. The pit they dig for David they will fall into themselves. Why? Because they are evil men. They are not on God’s side, and therefore God is not on their side.

It is not necessarily a bad thing when evil men oppose you. Now, if godly people take a stand against you, that’s a different matter. John Wesley prayed, “Lord if I must contend, let it not be with thy people.” But we should not be surprised when the world hates believers. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) Evil men hated Jesus because they hated God. Evil men hate Christians because they hate Jesus.

It goes all the way back to the garden where God said that there would be enmity or hatred between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The wicked have always hated the godly. Thomas Watson wrote, “The thief hates the light, therefore would blow it out.” When ungodly men oppose you, take heart. It means that you are probably doing something right. Besides, God will never side with evil. Therefore, realize that your enemies will stumble and fall.

    C. Know that God is bigger than any problem you face (3)

Thirdly, know that God is bigger than any problem you face. David says this is true no matter how large the threat. Look at verse 3: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”

Some people feel they can handle small problems; others feel they can handle fairly large problems. But we all reach a limit where our problems become bigger than us, bigger than what we can handle on our own. What then? David says if God is your stronghold, it doesn’t matter how great the problem gets. I don’t know many people who would be confident going up against an entire army. I certainly don’t know anyone who would remain confident if war broke out against him. Those are pretty tough odds to beat, but you know what? Never play the odds when you’re playing with God. David was confident in God no matter how great the threat he faced.

It doesn’t matter how large a problem you are facing in your life. God is bigger than your problems, and you can have full confidence in him. Now that doesn’t mean that everything will turn out the way you want it to. God in his wisdom may have different plans for you than you would choose. Christians suffer; they grieve; they are not immune to sickness and sorrow. Christians lose loved ones; they are imprisoned; their dreams sometimes come crashing down around them. But God is faithful, and he will bring you through whatever problems you face. In the long run, even death cannot hurt the child of God, for death simply ushers us into God’s presence.

Now let’s pause here for just a minute, because probably very few of us here today are actually facing a life or death situation. I don’t want to minimize whatever problems you may be going through today, but most of us are not dealing with life and death. Most of us are not literally “praying for our lives” today.

But millions of Christians around the planet are praying for their lives. Christian persecution is rampant around the globe today – in Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Cuba, North Korea – the list goes on. Believers in these countries are threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, tortured, raped and killed because of their faith. And yet they continue to trust God with their lives and with their families.

The person who trusts God is not threatened by the odds. What did David say in verse 3? “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” Know that God is bigger than any problem you face.

II. Praying for daily strength (verses 4-10)

So how did David do it? Why was David able to pray with such confidence even in the face of such overwhelming odds? Verses 4-10 give us another part of David’s secret. In verses 1-3 we saw David praying for his life in a time of crisis. But in verses 4-10, we find David praying for his life in a different way. David comes to God praying for daily strength for his life.

    A. Come to God with singleness of desire (4-6)

How do you do this? First of all, you must come to God with singleness of desire. Look at the beginning of verse 4. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek.” How would you finish that sentence? If you could only ask God one thing, what would it be? You remember the genie in the bottle and the three wishes. Now God appears before you and says, “What do you want? Pick one thing and it’s yours. Anything.” What would you ask for?

When God asked Solomon that question, Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people. God liked that answer, but I think he liked David’s answer even more: “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

This was the one thing David wanted at all costs. This was David’s pearl of great price. Other things he could do without, but not this. This was not negotiable. I believe David was speaking from experience here. David was not just seeking something that he had heard or read about. He is passionate in his request. David has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and now he is hungry for God. Nothing else will do. Everything else is a poor substitute and David knows it.

What is this one thing David desires? “To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” When David talks about “dwelling” in the house of the Lord, he is not talking about literally living in a church building, although I did that for a number of years out in California (ask me about it sometime). He is talking about living in God’s presence, knowing God’s presence daily in his life.

Now this desire to be in God’s presence is not completely separate from desiring to be in church. The two go together. Those who love God’s presence also love gathering with God’s people. After Christ’s ascension, we read how the disciples met “continually in the temple praising God.” (Luke 24:53) Remember David was probably on the run when he wrote this Psalm. How he would have longed to be back in Jerusalem to worship with God’s people. If you love God’s presence, you will also love the gathering of God’s people. Remember, God lives within the praises of his people.

Why did David long to dwell in the house of the Lord all his days? He gives us two reasons: 1) to gaze upon God’s beauty, and 2) to seek God in his temple.

When we talk about the beauty of the Lord, we are not talking about physical beauty. God is spirit, and he has no outward form. But outward form is not necessary for beauty. Music can be beautiful even though it has no physical form. The beauty of music comes through the orderly arranging of musical tones. God is a God of perfect order. When we speak of God’s beauty, we speak of God’s character – his love, his holiness, his power, his faithfulness, his justice, his mercy, his kindness, his grace – a beautiful, perfect, harmonious character that thrills our being.

God’s beauty refers to God’s pleasantness, his delightfulness, his goodness, his graciousness. God’s character is delightful, attractive. It inspires in us a greater love for him. Delight in God leads to worship of God, to worship him in spirit and in truth. Do you delight in God? Do you enjoy him? If not, why not? For I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with God. Search his character, and you will find only ever-increasing beauty, like the rising of the sun on a clear morning. This is why David could call God his light and his salvation, the strength of his life, because he spent time gazing upon God’s beautiful character.

How do you behold God’s beauty? Find him in his word, in prayer, in worship, in the fellowship of God’s people. Gaze upon God’s beauty. Fix your eyes upon him. Feast upon him. Gaze intently, enjoying sweet fellowship with your God. It is the one thing that if you have it, you don’t desire anything else. Jeremy Taylor wrote, “The new [person in Christ] creature asks nothing of God, but to enjoy God.”

David also says he wants to seek God in his temple. The word “seek” here means to inquire. David wants to gaze upon God’s beauty and inquire of the Lord, to seek his will and his guidance, to know more of who God is. As Jeremiah says, “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me … declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

Why do you come to church? To see others? To be seen? To listen to the music or the message? Or to see God, to behold his beauty and to seek him in his temple?

Why does David seek God in this way? Look at verse 5: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” David’s confidence in God grew out of his worship, and his worship grew out of his confidence. David trusted that God would deliver him in the day of trouble. We never know when the day of trouble will come or what it will hold for us. That’s why the book of James warns us against boasting about tomorrow. But that day never catches God by surprise. We can always trust in him.

Look at verse 6: “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” David is already planning his celebration party. It’s like phoning in your prayer request and your praise to the office at the same time. “Could you put such and such on the prayer list? Great, thanks! Oh, could you also put a praise report in too? No, I don’t know what God is going to do, but I know he will take care of it.” Now that’s faith!

I once read about a Christian minister in China by the name of Wang Ming Dao. He had spent 23 years in prison. His strong faith in God inspired millions of Chinese Christians. After his release a visiting minister from the United States asked him, “I will probably never be put in prison like you, so how can your faith have any impact on mine?”

Wang replied, “When you go back home, how many books do you have to read this coming month? How many letters to write, people to see, sermons to preach? You need to build yourself a cell. When I was put in jail I was devastated. I was an evangelist. I wanted to hold crusades all over China. I was an author. I wanted to write books. I was a preacher. I wanted to study my Bible and write sermons. But I had no Bible, no pulpit, no audience, no pen and paper. I could do nothing. Nothing except get to know God. And for 20 years, that was the greatest relationship I have ever known.”

Wang went on to say: “I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. Simplify your life, so you have time to know God.” Then the author ended his account about Wang with these piercing words: “Revival can only come to those who make room for God.”

Be often in God’s presence. Get to know him in his word and through prayer. Gaze upon his beauty. It is what you were made for. It is what your heart ultimately desires above all things. Come to God with singleness of desire, and then apply your heart to seeking God’s face.

    B. Apply your heart to seeking God’s face (7-10)

That’s what we see in verse 7. Up to now David has been talking about prayer. In verse 7, he now begins to pray. “Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.” David’s main concern was that God hear him, not that others may have heard his prayer, not that he had fulfilled his duty of prayer. “Lord, hear my voice when I call; be merciful to me and answer me.”

David’s hope and assurance that God would answer was based on God’s mercy. Once again, how did he know God’s mercy? Because he had spent time gazing upon God’s beauty. When you know God, truly know God, your prayer life will be transformed. The more you know him, the more you will love him. The more you love him, the more you will want to know him. This cycle will be part of the divine rhythm of heaven – beholding God’s beauty, knowing and loving, loving and knowing;

Note David’s deep humility. He was deeply aware that in coming before God, he needed mercy. We must come humbly before God. Prayer is many things – communication, relationship, request – but central to any definition of prayer is the concept of dependence. At bottom line prayer is dependence. We are totally dependent on God. But it takes humility to admit that, and some people’s pride keeps them far away from God. David calls upon God’s mercy.

Notice also that David speaks of God hearing “his voice.” Apparently when David prayed, he made audible sounds. Praying out loud is not necessary in private prayer, but it is often helpful. It can help keep you on track; it can help you guard against distractions; it can help you to express emotions. I love the scene in the movie, “The Apostle,” where Robert Duvall’s character, Sonny, is praying out loud to God in his room, so loudly that people outside can hear him! One of the characters says, “Oh that’s just Sonny talking to God; he gets that way sometimes.” I like that! Perhaps we should give full voice to our prayers more often. This is one of the reasons why singing is so important. It allows us to give full voice to our prayers through song.

I love verse 8: “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” God speaks to our hearts, and then our hearts speak to us. God places the desire in our hearts to seek his face, his presence, but we must make the willing determination to follow through. Don’t take that desire for granted. When your heart calls to you to seek God in prayer, rejoice! Listen to your heart. You are at a point of spiritual sensitivity in your life. Don’t take it for granted! Don’t assume that you will be at the same point of receptivity tomorrow. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

In verses 9 and 10 David recognizes his own sin even as he calls on God for help, and so he prays, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.”

Some people are rejected by their fathers, others by their mothers. David says, “Even if my father and mother both reject me, God will receive me.” The word “receive” here means “to take care of.” John Trapp translates this verse, “The Lord will take me into his care and keeping.” In this context the word could almost mean the same as adopt. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will adopt me.” When even those closest to you fail you, to whom will you turn? God will receive you. He will take you in.

This is the second thing we mean by praying for your life. Not just praying for deliverance in times of crisis, but praying for daily strength and sustenance, finding your life in God alone.

III. Persevering in prayer for a lifetime (verses 11-14)

But there is also a third way we can talk of praying for your life, and that is persevering in prayer for a lifetime. We find this in verses 11-14. David is committed to praying as long as he has life, for the rest of his life, demonstrating perseverance and patience in prayer

    A. Commit yourself to going God’s way (11-12)

How do you persevere in prayer for a lifetime? First of all, you must commit yourself to going God’s way. Look at verses 11-12: “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.”

“Teach me your way.” How often do we pray instead, “Give me my way!” David prays, “Lord, teach me your way.” This is the humility of confessing personal ignorance. “Lord, I don’t know the right way to go. Lord, you set the path for my life. You show me the way. You teach me, guide me, mold me, and use me for your kingdom.”

Notice that David asks for a straight path, level, safe and firm. When we follow God’s ways, we are safe and secure and under God’s protection. When we leave God’s path, we leave his protection, and we open ourselves needlessly to danger. Look at how David speaks of his oppressors in verse 11. He says, “Lord, lead me in a straight path so that I may not fear my oppressors, so that I may know the safety of walking within your will. May my life be a testimony and a witness to those who would seek to destroy me.”

We read in 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” David prays, “Lord, keep me in your straight path. Don’t turn me over to the desire of my foes, those false witnesses who rise up against me and would seek to bring me down, even by violent means. Help me to persevere.” David commits to going God’s way.

    B. Wait to see the goodness of the Lord (13-14)

And then finally, if we are going to persevere in prayer for a lifetime, we must learn to wait to see the goodness of the Lord.

How do we know that David had made a lifetime commitment to prayer? Look at verses 13-14: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” David was confident that God would redeem him in this lifetime, and he was willing to wait upon the Lord for his deliverance. David is taking the long-term approach here. He’s praying for his life, for the duration of his life.

Verse 13 breaks off abruptly in the Hebrew: You could almost translate it: “If I hadn’t believed . . . I will see God’s goodness in this life.” It’s almost as if David is saying, “If I didn’t have God in my life, if I didn’t believe and trust in him . . .” and then he shudders at the thought. He can’t even complete his sentence. Have you ever felt that way? “If I didn’t have God in my life, I don’t know how I could ever get through.”

And so David encourages himself and any others who may be going through trials. “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord. He is kind; he is good; he is merciful. He is my light and my salvation. He is the strength of my life.”

CONCLUSION: Praying for your life can mean praying in times of crisis. It can mean praying for daily strength. It can mean persevering in prayer for a lifetime. Are you praying for your life? If you are, then you know firsthand the incredible confidence David exhibits in this Psalm. Praise God!

If not, then I challenge you to pray for your life starting today. Look to God in times of trouble; come to God for strength every day; commit to a lifetime of persevering prayer. Take heart and be strong! You will see God’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord.

© Ray Fowler

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