Prayer and Faith, Part 1 – Our Attitude in Prayer, Recognizing Our Need for God – A Bible Study

“When we pray, we invite the divine presence of the Almighty God to do life with us that day. Watch for Him. Look for Him. Make the connection of things that happen as direct evidence of His hand at work.” –Lysa TerKeurst (on Facebook 7/14/14)

Psalm 12 (all) NIV       A psalm of David.

1Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race. 2Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts. 3May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue— 4those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?” 5“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them.” 6And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.

7You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, 8who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race.

 What are your first impressions when you read this prayer?

This is a short Psalm containing a prayer of David. It is only 138 words. The main part of the prayer is two words, “Help, Lord.” This is the request. The next few verses are a list of reasons for his need for help. Verse 6 shows trust in God’s Word and then moves into a declaration of faith in verses 7-8: You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever.”

Help in the Hebrew is yasha (yaw-shah’)

Original Word: יָשַׁע Part of Speech: Verb Short Definition: save

To deliver, avenging, defend, deliverer, help, preserve, rescue, be safe, bring (having) salvation, save(-iour), get victory. Strong’s # 3467 (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm)

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that the word help, implies that we need to be doing something in order to be helped. How can we be helped if we are not doing something? Not that God needs our help to do anything, but we are to be about God’s work in our everyday living. And we need to depend upon God’s help to do that in line with His will and timing, in righteousness and truth. As with most of God’s promises, we need to be active, even in waiting, in order to see the hand of God at work in our lives. David had no doubt the Lord would help them in their need. But he also knew that he needed to acknowledge his need for God’s intervention and humble himself to ask for it.

The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord’s character assures us that he will not leave his people; his relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us his aid; his gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and his sure promise stands, “Fear not, I will help thee.” –Morning and Evening by Spurgeon (for June 17, morning, found on http://biblehub.com/devotions/Morning_June_17.htm

One of my all time favorite verses is Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Too often people stop quoting the verse here, but that is only the beginning of the verse. The verse continues, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NIV)

Two other translations use different words for “be still”:

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NASB)

“Stop your fighting–and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” (HCSB)

I used the three translations as a way of helping us see the scope of what God is telling us here. He IS telling us to stop and make time for Him in our lives and to recognize His power and authority over us. But, He is also showing us that stillness is more than just sitting still, it is an attitude of our hearts to stop struggling with and opposing Him in our lives. Our flesh is constantly in a battle against the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Our prayer lives have a direct impact upon how much we strive with or cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

I thought I had this all figured out until I looked at the original Hebrew and it’s meaning. Wow!

Still in the Hebrew is raphah (raw-faw’) Original Word: רָפָה Part of Speech: Verb Short ‘=

Definition: fail

A primitive root; to slacken, sink, relax, abate, cease, consume, draw (toward evening), fail, be faint, be (wax) feeble, forsake, idle, leave, let alone, (be) slack, stay, be still, be slothful, (be) weak(-en). See rapha’. Strong’s #7503 (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7503.htm)

 What I really found interesting is the definition of rapha (referenced to see above)

Rapha (raw-faw’): to heal

Original Word: רָפָא Part of Speech: Verb Short Definition: heal

cure, cause to heal, physician, repair, thoroughly, make whole

Or raphah {raw-faw’}; a primitive root; properly, to mend (by stitching), i.e. (figuratively) to cure — cure, (cause to) heal, physician, repair, X thoroughly, make whole. See raphah. Strongs # 7495 (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/7495.htm)

 I find it curious and contradictory that these two words, by looking at their definitions are complementary and based on the same root word. Raphah appears to show weakness and failure, while Rapha indicates healing and wholeness. Yet the dictionary indicates that they are connected. If we use these definitions in looking at Psalm 46:10 again, how does that change your understanding of this verse?

He says, “Be still (cease, weak, relaxed – healed, made whole, thoroughly), and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NIV)

 The dictionary at www.merriam-Webster.com defines strive as

1:  to devote serious effort or energy :  endeavor <strive to finish a project>

2:  to struggle in opposition :  contend

 How often do we expend a lot of energy on something trying to do it in our own power only to fail and realize we cannot do it without God’s help or worse, just quit altogether?

Every translation uses the phrase “and know that I am God.”

“Know” in the Hebrew is yada (yaw-dah’)

Original Word: יָדַע Part of Speech: Verb Short Definition: know

A primitive root; to know, acknowledge, acquainted with, advise, answer, appoint, assuredly, be aware Strong’s #3045 (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3045.htm)

Looking at the definition of the Hebrew word, yada, for know, what does it mean to “Know that I am God”?

So, when we look at Psalm 46:10 hopefully we will see a greater meaning in it than we did before. God wants us to pause to acknowledge His presence and power in our lives, but also to be aware of His presence with us at all times. We need to acknowledge our weakness and stop fighting against Him, so He can come in and heal us and make us whole. He knows that when we do that He will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. When we live our lives for Him, Jesus should be shining in and through us – in the way we act and speak and just our presence. When we obey the Lord it brings Him glory and honor and that does not go unnoticed or become void. We may feel like our individual lives could not possibly exalt God among the nations or in the earth, and maybe an individual act will not, but like a pebble tossed into a pond, there is a ripple effect that goes way beyond that point in time to spread in ever increasing, larger circles. But it all starts with our prayer lives. For God’s power to be used most effectively through us we need to keep our cord plugged into the electrical socket that supplies God’s power to us (abide in the Vine-John 15). We may be able to keep a charge in our batteries for a short amount of time, but without being connected to the power source, we will lose our strength and ability to do the work for which God created us to do.

Back in Psalm 12, In addition to acknowledging his own insufficiency to face the troubles in his own power, David was acknowledging the fallen state of the world, the lack of faith and the rampant sin all around him (v.1-2). This applies to our lives and our society today as well. There is a battle raging all around us in this country and throughout the world, not with weapons of physical warfare, but with weapons of spiritual warfare. When we did the Being Salt study we discussed the Armor of God, so I won’t go into detail about each of the pieces of armor now. However, since we are discussing spiritual warfare, would like to look at parts of Ephesians 6 again.

 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 NASB

 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:6 NIV

 If we try to fight a spiritual battle without God’s Armor we are defeated before we start. We cannot fight in a spiritual battle without the Lord’s help. We are too weak when we are alone. God sends the Holy Spirit to come to live within us when we receive Jesus as our Savior, to give us the constant teaching, equipping and help that we need to live this life in Him. We were not created to do this life alone and in our own power. When we stay connected to the Lord He equips us with all we need to stand and face the enemy in the battle. But the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47, 2 Chronicles 20:15). He goes before us and behind us (Psalm 139:5) as we do battle with His help. We were created to be in continual relationship with our Creator/Father/God.

 David’s, “Help, Lord”, acknowledges his need for God in his circumstances.

 In Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV) Paul instructs us,

 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

 What do these verses from Ephesians tell us about the importance of prayer and how we should pray?

 It’s important to note here that our prayers should not only be for ourselves, but for others as well, all God’s people and for the unsaved as well. I find in my own life that when I concentrate too much on my own needs and battles that the rest of the world gets pushed back and out of my view and thoughts. But if I try to put the needs of others ahead of my own in my thoughts and prayers, the Lord seems to tend to my needs without me having to stress over them. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Oh, wait, that’s what Jesus is telling us when He says,

 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

 Here is a portion of Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for Ephesians 6:10-18 (quoted from http://biblehub.com/ephesians/6-18.htm):

 “To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary. Prayer must fasten all the other parts of our Christian armour. There are other duties of religion, and of our stations in the world, but we must keep up times of prayer. Though set and solemn prayer may not be seasonable when other duties are to be done, yet short pious prayers darted out, always are so. We must use holy thoughts in our ordinary course. A vain heart will be vain in prayer. We must pray with all kinds of prayer, public, private, and secret; social and solitary; solemn and sudden: with all the parts of prayer; confession of sin, petition for mercy, and thanksgiving for favours received. And we must do it by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, in dependence on, and according to, his teaching. We must preserve in particular requests, notwithstanding discouragements. We must pray, not for ourselves only, but for all saints. Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer is almighty, and in the power of his mighty we may overcome. Wherefore we must stir up ourselves. Have not we, when God has called, often neglected to answer? Let us think upon these things, and continue our prayers with patience.”

 How does this quote speak to you?

 God has shown us how important it is to know the Word and make it a part of us. Many places David tells of how having God’s Word in his heart keeps him from sinning against the Lord. Here is one example:

The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. Psalm 37:31 NIV (of David)

 Memorizing key verses equips us to battle the lies of the enemy as Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). (Are you familiar with this passage? If not, take a moment to read it.) It can also help us when our own thoughts betray us, so we can, as the apostle Paul tells us:

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

The truth of God’s Word is what we need to know, so we can take captive the wrong thoughts that come into our minds and replace them with the truth from God’s Word. (These key verses can be different for each of us depending upon what wrong thoughts plague us). My area of struggle for much of my Christian walk has been with my identity in Christ. The enemy and my own thoughts continued to condemn me for my past, so I had to learn and rely upon God’s truth that I am His child (John 1:12), I am the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), that God remembers my sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34), I have been redeemed (Galatians 3:13), and I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)….

If you have struggles with wrong thoughts and attacks on your mind, your homework is to look up verses that you can use to demolish arguments and take those thoughts captive and obedient to Christ. Write them down and read them often and in this way you will “write them upon your heart” (Psalms 40:8 & 119:11).

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a (NIV)

Some time ago the Lord revealed to me that strength, true strength, is only found in Him. I am weak, but He is strong, as the song says (Jesus Loves Me). I have learned to not ask for Him to give me strength, but instead for Him to be my strength, because strength without His presence will not do me any good. So, I realize that it’s not so much strength I need, but God Himself. He is all I need to do what needs to be done or get through the trials life brings my way. This revelation has given me a whole different outlook on my prayer life and what that means.

I don’t want to make this a habit, but there are times that I just cannot spend an extended time in prayer at the beginning of the day, but I can and do try to live in His presence and recognize His hand at work in whatever I am doing. In the book by Brother Lawrence, he calls this “The Practice of the Presence of God.” So I look for God at work throughout my day and I will send up a quick, “Thank You, Jesus”, a “Help me, Lord”, a “God bless and protect you” for the driver that cuts me off, or a prayer of intercession for whomever the Lord brings to my mind. This helps me to depend upon Him throughout my day. Whatever we do, we can do it with full awareness of God’s presence with us.

12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NASB

 But as these verses in 1 Corinthians state, we cannot see everything clearly in this life. We have to trust the Lord and His plan, purpose, and timing and wait for Him to reveal it to us, even if that is not this side of heaven. We have faith and hope which do not disappoint (Romans 5:5 NLT) and we can trust in His unfailing love (Deuteronomy 5:10, Psalm 17:7, 119:76).

 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT

 Sometimes we find it hard to pray, because we don’t understand why God allows some circumstances to come into our lives – especially tragic events. Sometimes people fall away from God, because they keep their focus on the pain of their circumstances and cannot reconcile in their minds how God can allow such a tragedy to occur to a faithful believer. There are some preachers who teach that way, but it is not biblical. Jesus Himself taught us the truth:

 The verses in 1 Corinthians and John above, and the ones from Daniel, Matthew, and Romans below, can help us learn to rest in the Lord even when the world doesn’t make sense to us. We cannot see the bigger picture, but the Lord sees it all and He will use even the painful, tragic things that come into our lives for the greater good, the big picture of His Kingdom.

 17“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 NASB

28“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

 Do these 5 passages give you any hope or a different perspective on the painful events in life?

 How can we use these verses to remind us of God’s goodness and grace in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life?

 What hope does Jesus offer us here in the midst of trials and pain?

For more on how to live your faith and be confident in prayer read about

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:16-29, Daniel in Daniel 6:16-23, and Joseph in Genesis 39:20-23.

 A faithful walk with the Lord does not guarantee a pain free life. But it does guarantee that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be right there to walk through it with us just as He did with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in that fiery furnace (Daniel 3), Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6), and Joseph through being sold into slavery, temptation and persecution by Potiphar’s wife, wrongful imprisonment, and being forgotten in prison (Genesis 37, 39-41). And even in those painful and tragic seasons of our lives we can find God’s peace, provision, and hope if we are looking for it. And the best and first places to seek God are in His Word and prayer. “Face time” with the Lord is the most precious gift He has given us and that gift is only possible through the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is our hope and the basis of our faith. That is the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) that He offers to each of us as we seek Him with all our hearts (Deuteronomy 4:29) in prayer and in the Word and in our everyday lives.

 A couple verses to ponder as you go today…

 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5 NIV

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NLT

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