This week we have been learning to pray from the Psalms. We considered recognizing God’s presence as we begin to pray from Psalm 139. We looked at confession of sins from Psalm 51. We noted the importance of recognizing God’s forgiveness from Psalm 32. And yesterday we discussed praising God from Psalms 29 and 117.
Today we want to consider petition. For most of us, petition probably makes up a large part of our prayers. And this is okay, as long as we don’t neglect the other elements of prayer. Indeed, much of the Psalms is also given to petition. As we think about petition from the Psalms, I want to consider four principles.
1. Recognize Your Helplessness
David clearly recognizes his helplessness as he cries out to God in Psalm 61:1-2:
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
His heart is faint. He needs someone higher than himself. He needs help, and out of that recognition, he cries out to God. As we recognize our helplessness, we too will pray. What we need to grasp is that we need God’s help for everything. Too often we think we can do it ourselves. But we need God for our next breath. And in the spiritual realm: apart from God we can do nothing (John 15). We always need God’s help. And the more we recognize this, the more we will pray.
2. Cry Out To God
In the verses above, that is exactly what David is doing. He is crying out to God. Psalm 62:8 tells you to “pour out your heart before him.” Whatever is on our hearts is what we should pray about. Nothing is too big or too small.
3. Trust His Will
Psalm 62:8 starts by telling us to “Trust in him at all times, O people.” Not only are we to pour out our hearts to God, but we are to trust in him – and that includes trusting his will, his plan in our current situation. We need to trust his answer to our prayers.
We need to pour out our hearts and trust his will. I think we tend to stray one way or the other. We might cry out to God in a way that becomes demanding. Or we may stoically resign ourselves to his will without ever expressing our hearts. Jesus as always is our perfect example here:
And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Notice that Jesus pours out his heart. He wants the hour to pass. He wants the cup removed. He wants to be spared the agony of the cross and our sins. He cries out to God. What is particularly interesting is that he knows the answer to his cries is no. He came to die. He has been telling his disciples for days that he is going to Jerusalem to die. He knows the answer, but he cries out anyway. He isn’t fake with his Father; he expresses his true feelings – and so should we.
But Jesus also trusts the Father’s will. He closes his prayer with submission to the Father’s will. He will trust the Father even in the horror of the cross.
Jesus is our perfect example. Tell God how you feel, but then trust his will.
4. Trust His Power
Psalm 62:8 again:
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
We need to not only trust his will, but also his power. Helpless, we cry out to the one who can help us. He is our refuge. He is bigger than any trial that can come against us. Like David in Psalm 61, we cry out to the rock that is higher than we are. I think of the example of Asa in II Chronicles 14:9-12. A huge army is coming against Judah. Humanly speaking, Asa’s puny army is about to be utterly defeated. Helpless, Asa cries out to a God more powerful than any army. And God defeats the larger army.
Do you pray believing in God’s greater power? Do you pray expectantly? Regardless of the situation? God is more powerful than anything that can come against us. And he still answers prayers. Trust his power.
Petition is an important part of our prayer. Because we are helpless on our own, we must cry out to God for help. We should share our hearts with him, even as we trust his answer. And we should pray expectantly, remember that his power is greater than anything that can come against us. So let us bring our petitions before him!