by Joanne Couture
I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. (Psalm 116:1-2)
Psalm 116 is part of a group of hymns called the Hallel that were traditionally sung during the Passover meal. Therefore, it is likely to be part of the hymns that Mathew and Mark tell us Jesus and his disciples sang before heading to the Mount of Olives the night he was betrayed and arrested. The words are prophetic. This group of Psalms, 113-118, rejoice in God’s past and future salvation for his people. I picture Jesus singing these words of God’s triumph with his disciples responding, “Alleluia” after each stanza as was commonly done. How encouraging this would have been for Jesus as he headed to the garden to wrestle in prayer with his Father about the horror that lay ahead of him. Jesus no doubt sang also for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2) and the victory he would win over death itself, procuring our salvation. Jesus sang knowing he would soon be the fulfillment of the very words he was singing.
Let’s focus in on the first two verses of Psalm 116 written above. What do they teach us about God and prayer? The Psalmist begins his prayer with a simple declaration of his grateful love for Yahweh, the great I AM. He is grateful because Almighty, Eternal God, his Creator and Sustainer, has, and will always, incline his ear to attentively listen to his people’s prayers. This wonderful truth deepens the Psalmist’s love for Yahweh because he is confident that God desires to hear his prayers. He responds to this beautiful truth by saying he will always and continually call upon God as long as he lives. This truth is also our confidence in prayer to the LORD (Yahweh). He desires for us to draw near to his throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
If we forget these truths, we can wrongly think that God is not listening or ignoring our prayers when he doesn’t answer our prayers on our timetable or flat out says no. While we can feel super disappointed, God hasn’t changed. His delays, as well as his answers, are made with perfect love and perfect knowledge and always with our best in mind. These errors in our thinking, if embraced, could lead us to doubt God’s goodness and love for us. So, when we feel like this, by God’s grace, we should stop and recognize this thinking as coming from the enemy who is the father of lies. Just as in the garden, he whispers planting doubt, “Has God really said He inclines His ear to you and listens to your prayers?” The dark realm trembles when we pray. They will press us to despair of pray by casting doubt on God’s goodness. The only way to combat a lie is with truth. Let us return then to the beginning of the Psalm and declare our love for God and praise him for who he is. Then honestly bring our feelings, disappointments, confusion, and doubts to our heavenly Father in prayer. Ask him to help us take every thought captive to Christ who is the Way the Truth and the Life. We should journey through our circumstances trusting in Jesus’ love, and never measure Jesus’ love for us based on our circumstances.
A prayer based on Psalm 116:1-2:
Father God, I love you so very much because you lovingly desire to hear every one of my prayers. I love that you have given me the same words to pray that your beloved Son Jesus prayed. I love that you share in my joys, my sorrows, my hurts, my heartaches. You hear my cries of confusion and anger and understand perfectly how big my life struggles are for me today. You get me. Thank you for being tender with my weaknesses when I don’t understand. I believe you are good even though my circumstances do no always feel good. Please speak your peace over my life, my emotions, and my heart. Thank you that you are more than able to answer my prayers in the best way possible. Help me to rest in your goodness. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
© 2024; Joanne Courture; all rights reserved. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com