Sunday, March 31

My Prayers Are Not in Vain

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.
I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.
The cords of death surrounded me.
The floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The cords of Sheol were round about me; the snares of death came on me.
In my distress I called on the Lord, and cried to my God.
He heard my voice out of his temple, my cry before him came into his ears.
—Psalm 18:1-6
The first Hebrew word of this psalm is a bit unusual. אֶרְחָמְךָ is usually translated as love in English, but it's not the most common word for love. A literal translation of אֶרְחָמְךָ might be "I feel passion toward you." Calvin, on the other hand, says it implies a trust in God's mercy.

The passion and the trust are actually explained in the psalm, first in an introduction that many translations include as part of the first verse, and then in a recounting of both David's experience and of Israel's deliverance.

The introduction states that David prayed these words on the day he was delivered from the hand of Saul, who sought to kill him. And verses four and five describe how it felt to David to be pursued by his enemies and nearly fall into their hands.

What follows in verses 7-15 is not so much a description of David's experience, but a recounting of the Exodus from Egypt. And it is in this connection that I can most easily relate to this psalm. It opens with words of love and trust, then tells of the psalmist's difficulties, followed by a reminder of why David's love and trust were not misplaced: "In my distress I called on God, who heard my voice." But answered prayer does not come in isolation. This is Gods m.o. It has ever been the case that those in trouble have cried to God, and God has heard them and delivered them. God delivered Israel from Egypt, David from Saul, and the crucified Christ from the snares of death.

Whether I am laying my request before God, or thanking God for hearing my prayer, I also should recount God's mighty deeds in the past—whether in my own life or in the lives of the saints, patriarchs, and matriarchs—both to acknowledge God's power and to remind myself that my prayers are not in vain.

O God, you who brought Israel out of bondage, who made a shepherd boy Ruler of your people, and who conquered the grave in my Savior Jesus Christ, I bring you my prayers this morning, trusting in your love... All this I pray in the Name of him who taught me to pray: Our Father...

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