How do we pray in times of distress? Our prayers in distress are important, but so are our actions. How do we respond in times of distress? Learn how as we take some time to meditate and pray through Psalm 4.
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In Psalm 138:3, David writes, “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.”
Life is heavy. There is a weight in situations and circumstances that cannot be measured with a scale. There is no physical mass to a hard day, but still you feel and weight of it.
How heavy is the soul?
Can you imagine going through the day, walking up to friends, acquaintances, and strangers and asking them a common question, “How much do you weigh today?” Talk about getting personal!
And so, I will start the day with you, how much do you weigh today? I can ask because I am at a safe “no slap” cyber-distance from you through the blog. Yet, I can also ask, because I am not speaking of the weight of your body, but the weight of your soul. How about the weight of your day? Perhaps the weight of your situation? The weight of the body, you and I mindlessly carry it around day by day. I think very little of 211. I’m so used to it, I don’t feel it. I am what I am! But, weight of soul, I feel it. So do you.
How do we increase the strength of our soul? From Psalm 138 we can draw some solid principles.
Thankfulness from the whole heart (v. 1) - The Psalms are not trite songs and prayers that mindlessly look for the good in every situation. If anything, the Psalms are honest songs and prayers. They are the anthems of heavy souls. In fact there is a small collection of them that in Latin are referred to as misery Psalms. The foremost of them being Psalm 51. Yet even in Psalms of hopelessness there is thankfulness. In Psalm 138:1 he sings praise to his God before the gods. Our soul is strengthened in the song of thankfulness. The situation may not change, but a burdened soul finds resolute strength when we take a moment to enter into the equation of our situation who God is.
Bowing the body in prayer, daily (v. 2) - Notice in the second verse David bows toward the Temple. It is the same as saying, “I bow before God.” The posture of our body reflects the posture of our heart. When we bow before God we are not only expressing reverence, but humility and vulnerability. When arresting someone a policeman says, “Hands up where I can see them.” If the hands are up, it is assumed there will be no defense. Bowing is the “hands up” of the soul. It is the posture of total surrender. How often do we pray a pithy prayer, a token word to God as we walk, or before we eat, or even as we drive. There is no surrender in religious ritual. There is no strength of soul in mindless habit. But have you taken time in prayer today to bow before God? Bowing requires that you stop what you are doing. It requires that you get on your face. Bowing is breaking the back, cracking open the soul, laying down before the Lord. Bowing before God not only says, “God, you are holy” but it also says, “I can’t do this.” The soul is strengthened in holy vulnerability.
Remembering the plans, purposes, and promises of God (v. 4-8). I will admit, it is difficult for me to pray for long periods of time. The digi-brain is easily distracted. Smartphones are the death of meditation and of the attention span. Yet when my mind is stayed on Scripture I can concentrate. What I am writing this morning is due to my time praying through Psalm 138; my strength of soul has been increased - and so I blog. In verses 4-8 David is citing what he has found to be true of God by experience, but for the most part, he is reciting back to God what he knows to be true of Him from His Word. The thought that all the kings of the earth will give God praise is an eschatological hope. The world is unwound right now, but we know how the story ends. Truth strengthens the soul. Verse 6 reflects God’s character. “Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly.” You and I need to remind ourselves of this - it strengthens the soul to know God cares. He is with me in my times of trouble (v. 7). His promises do not fail (v. 8). The weight of the day threatens to crush me, but in these truths there is a new reality that strengthens my soul.
It cannot be measured on the scale, but you feel the weight of the day. The situation may not change, but the soul has the potential to be strengthened. Prayer, singing, bowing before God, staying the mind on truth - these are the things that increase the strength of the soul.
Love is arguably the most common theme in music. With an incredible capacity to love and to receive love it should be no surprise we find love so interesting and inspiring. At the same time we have a heart that is vulnerable and explosive. When it comes to love we often experience as much exhilaration as we do confusion.
In today’s music there are basically four types of love songs. 1) Pure romance. This is the song that makes the ladies melt. It is romeo with a beat. Much like John Legend’s “All of me” it is all about the words. 2) I’m not like the other guys. These songs pick up the important theme of rebuilding trust in someone after a broken heart. Justin Timberlake’s “Not a Bad Thing” is a prime example. “I know people make promises, all the time, then turn right around and break them. When someone cuts your heart, open with a knife and you’re bleeding, but I could be that guy, to heal it over time, and I won’t stop until you believe it.” 3) Lust at first sight. It’s not really about love as much as it is about immediate attraction and a wild night. Ed Sheeran’s “Sing” exemplifies this genre. 4) Finally, we have the break up song. No one is better at break ups than Taylor Swift. She doesn’t have anything currently topping the charts, but someone is going to break her heart soon and she will get over it by slicing him open on 12 tracks and sell 10 million copies.
If you listen to today’s music it is not hard to hear the volatility of our experience in love. Yet, God puts on display for His people a perfect picture of redeeming love. In Psalm 33 David writes a song for stringed instruments and he says in verse 21, “For our heart is glad in Him because we trust His holy name.” In the song David celebrates 4 things about God as a true lover.
A true lover:
Speaks a trustworthy word (Psalm 33:4a, 6-9). Everything God says comes true. He does not simply make empty romantic promises, but His Word comes to pass. The right response is to stand in awe of Him in worship (v. 8). For those who are married, never underestimate the power of your words. Especially for the men, we need to be mindful of our words toward our wives. For those who are single and searching, find someone that can be trusted. Someone who is always backtracking, covering for themselves, and having to constantly explain why what they said doesn’t match what they did, is not a fit lover - move on.
Does a faithful work (Psalm 33:4b, 10-12). We will constantly deal with difficulty when it comes to life and love. Yet even though the nations rage against the Lord, His plans do not fail. What He has determined to do, He will do. He is faithful because He is able. As Timberlake’s song insinuates, it is difficult to trust people. Yet he croons in a vulgar way that if his lover will go out, do whatever she wants to do with whoever she wants to do it with, that she will find in the end, he is the one. is that really the way we want to arrive at the truth? You will never find someone higher by looking lower. If you want to find truly love, you have to know where to truly look. In the Lord we find a lover who has not only envisioned a plan for us, but is faithful to perform on His Word. For the married couples, are you simply coexisting, or is there a dream and a plan for your marriage? What are your goals. We need in our marriage to be constantly working and fostering faithfulness for one another. For the searching singles, find someone like our God in the most basic ways - working! Find someone with ambition, a plan, goals and who is working toward those ends.
Goes a righteous way (Psalm 33:5a, 13-17). David finds in the Lord someone who does right. Sheeran’s song is the age old story of the one night stand. Yet we need to realize that our life is not a music video, our life has real consequences. David writes two Psalms about the misery of the consequences of a night driven by lust (Psalm 32 and 51). The conviction of the Lord was greatly on him and the guilt of his sin made his body ache in the heaviness of shame. You can’t get to the right place going the wrong way. You can’t find the right thing looking in the wrong place. David says that the Lord looks down from heaven on us and he fashions our hearts and deeds in His hands. This means He is mindful of all we do, nothing escapes His righteous gaze. Whether a searching single or married, we need to have a vision for righteous, redeeming love. We need a love that God honors, that has purity at its heart and Christ and the church as its vision. God does not trash us in lust, but He redeems us in love.
Extends a lasting love (Psalm 33:5b, 18-22). There is no breakup song for God. No lover has been more attested as being faithful and loyal as He. In the Lord David found for his heart gladness and hope. He knew the Lord would not fail. When we realize how we have been loved by God and we celebrate His love it informs us and prepares us to give and receive love to others. God’s lasting love shows us the boundaries of love. His love for us shows us where love works and where love is not love at all but unrighteous lust. God’s love informs us in that it raises our expectations and standards. Even when we are disappointed in love, we are not looking lower but higher because of the lasting love God extends to us. God’s lasting love also gives us a place of grace. The lasting love of God requires grace. Ultimately we are an unfaithful, unrighteous people, yet God gives steadfast love to His people. God’s love gives us grace and stability we can extend to others, which will go a long way in repairing relationships.
As much as we hear on the radio about love, we need to see what redeemed love looks like. God has given us an incredible capacity for love and passion, yet in a sinful world much of what we hear is merely a perversion of truth. The love God has for His people is a perfect love. When we seek Him first, it helps us to be more discerning with the messages we hear, but it also helps us to be more loving toward those around us. Paul said in Phil. 1:9 that our love needs to abound, grow more and more with knowledge and all discernment.
If you are heart broken and looking for true love. Repent of sin and receive the love of God He has given to us in His son Jesus Christ. Receive Him as Lord and Savior and follow Him as a disciple. Only by experiencing redeeming love can we sort though the chaos of love in this life and know what true love is (Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9-10, 13).