Pray for Strength
Posted by Pastor Phil Huebner
Pray for Strength
Text: Psalm 141
“Daaadyyy,” the young child forcefully whispers. “Daaadyyy,” echoes down the hallway again, this time a bit louder. Finally, an outright shout: “Daaadyy! Are you there? Can you hear me? Come quickly! Help, Daddy!”
The father rushes in to find his child buried under a fortress of blankets and pillows. “There’s a monster under my bed. I think there’s one in my closet too.” Daddy flips on the lights. He checks under the bed. He checks in the closet. Then he wraps his child in a warm, firm embrace. “Don’t worry. I love you. I’m here. You’re safe.”
But what if daddy didn’t listen? What if daddy didn’t come? What if daddy didn’t give the support and strength the child needed?
We are surrounded. All around us there is a mass of monsters lurking in the dark shadows. Not Freddy Krueger or the Boogey Man. Far worse. It’s Satan and all his evil forces. As he claws to claim us in his clutches forever, he uses an army of monsters. He uses temptations to lure us into his sinful traps. He uses our own arrogance and bravado to lead us blindly into deeper darkness. He uses enemies of God who love doing evil and who want us to join them in their wicked ways.
We need help. We need strength. We need our Father.
So we join David in prayer and turn to our Father, to Yahweh, to our gracious and loving Lord with the words of Psalm 141. “O Lord, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
Why would God listen to us? What would make a perfect God in heaven care about sinful humans on earth? Why would he answer when we call out to him?
It’s because he is the Lord. He is Yahweh, Jehovah, the loving and compassionate God. He is the God who forgives all our sins and remembers them no more. So as we call out to him he lovingly listens like the caring and concerned father who hears his child calling in the middle of the night.
With monsters of evil and sin all around, we call out to our gracious Lord and beg him to come quickly. We implore him to hear us. Prayer after prayer we place before him, raising our hands to him and lifting up our prayers to him like the pleasing incense and smoke from an Old Testament evening sacrifice. And our loving Lord listens.
What prayers do we offer?
First, verses 3-4: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.” First we pray for guarded lips and a guarded heart.
We need God’s strength to guide us as we speak. The lips and the mouth are addressed a lot in Scripture. Rightfully so. The words we speak can quickly damage and destroy.
A famous baseball player by the name of Ryan Braun found this out this week. The superstar All-Star has played several years for the Milwaukee Brewers. He vehemently denied accusations about using performance enhancing drugs last year. When he escaped culpability by a strange mistake he then blasted all of his accusers. Suddenly it was revealed Monday that new evidence proves he did cheat, use steroids, and lie to Major League Baseball and all his fans. Now his hot mouth and lethal lies will cost him millions upon millions of dollars, his respect, his reputation, his fans, and possibly his career.
Just a few words in a text message or an Email, just a few sarcastic comebacks, just a few feet in the mouth will do a lot of damage. We can destroy friendships and relationships. We can belittle our spouse. We can damage reputations. We can curse and swear against our holy God. We need the Lord’s strength to guard our mouths and watch over the door of our lips so that nothing bad comes out.
We also need the Lord’s strength to guard our hearts. “Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.” Like forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, sometimes the wickedness around us seems so attractive. We are drawn to the evil desires and wicked deeds. We want just a little taste. A little morsel of lust. A couple crumbs of indulgence. A gigantic gulp of gratification. We need the Lord’s strength to guard our hearts from falling into these sins.
Our loving Lord certainly has the strength to give. The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet he was without sin. He resisted every temptation. Then he went on to crush Satan at the cross. The victorious power of Christ has triumphed over the devil and all his spiritual forces. The Lord hears our prayers that rise before him like incense. He listens. He answers. He will give us strength to guard our lips and heart.
We also offer this prayer in verse 5: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” This is a prayer for a humble heart.
When a righteous man, a fellow believer, strikes me or rebukes me, it doesn’t usually feel good. If I am being struck it’s because my heart is boastfully proud. If I am being rebuked it is because I have sinned. It doesn’t usually feel good to have this happen.
Sometimes people will try and lie to get out of trouble and out of the heat. Ryan Braun is a good example of that. Sometimes we also do that so we can spare our reputation. Sometimes we make up excuses for sins. Sometimes people get angry when they are confronted with sins. I’ve had a number of people over the last few years refuse to admit their sin so they just stopped coming to church.
It’s never fun to admit you are wrong or that you messed up. It’s certainly never fun to admit you sinned against a holy God and rightfully deserve his punishment. That’s why we pray for the Lord’s strength to give us a humble heart that is willing to listen to fellow Christians, willing to accept correction, and willing to repent.
Our loving Lord certainly has the strength to give. Jesus was able to set aside his divine power and humbly enter this world. He was born in a manger. He lived a meager life. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was crucified. He died. He was buried.
The Lord hears our prayers that rise before him like incense. He listens. He answers. The Lord who served us and saved us by his ultimate humility will give us the strength to have a humble heart.
Next David returns his thoughts and prayers in the next verses to the evils around us, the monsters lurking and looking to lead us to sin. “Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers; their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs, and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken. They will say, ‘As one plows and breaks up the earth, so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.’”
This whole psalm was written because of the sin in the world around us. There are so many who simply love doing evil. There are so many who take pleasure in doing what is wicked. Those who love what is evil and wicked hate what is good and pleasant. They hate God and his commands.
So we rightfully join David in praying against them. It’s like praying in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” We are praying in Psalm 141 that those who do evil be thrown down and that overcomes and accomplishes his will. Soon they will find out that their wicked ways will lead to nothing but death, to their bones being scattered at the mouth of the grave.
With so much evil and sin around us and with such an awful fate for those who are wicked, there is one more part to add to our prayer in verses 8-10: “But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, from the traps set by evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.” Our final part of the prayer is for the strength to fix our eyes on the Lord.
We may think of a driver keeping his eyes focused on the road and traffic ahead so he doesn’t crash. We may think of a runner keeping eyes on the road ahead and the finish line at the end. Or better, we may think of Peter who walked on water until he took his eyes of Jesus and began to sink.
There are many snares and traps and nets laid out by the wicked. Satan wants so badly to use them to get us off the road to heaven and to have us crash and burn forever in hell. So we pray for eyes properly fixed on our Sovereign Lord, so that we will stay focused on the narrow path to heaven and pass by in safety.
Our loving Lord certainly has strength to give. Jesus was able to resolutely march on toward Jerusalem and accomplish his goal. He avoided all distractions and fixed his eyes on the cross, because his loving forgiveness was fixated on us.
The Lord hears our prayers that rise before him like incense. He listens. He answers. The Lord will give us the strength to fix our eyes on him and to pass by all evils to the safety of life with him in heaven.
It’s a scary feeling to be alone and lost in the forest, calling out for help and hoping someone hears. It’s a scary feeling to be stranded with a broken down car on a dark and empty highway, calling out for help and hoping someone hears. It’s a scary feeling to be a child in a dark room in the middle of the night imagining monsters everywhere, calling out for help and hoping someone hears. But it is absolutely terrifying to be surrounded by the devil and all his wicked forces of this world, as we call out for help and hope someone hears.
Then again, it isn’t really scary at all. We call out to the Lord and plead for him to come quickly. Our prayers rise before like incense, prayers we can offer for the sake of our Savior Jesus. And he listens. Our loving Lord hears our prayers and he answers. He strengthens us. He wraps us in his firm, warm embrace. He says, “Don’t worry. I love you. I’m here. You’re safe.”