Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well-worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”
We are back in the book of Psalms this week for a message that I have titled, “The Right Start to Every Day”. Before we get into the study of what appears to be a prayer to God, let me remind you that this is a song that was sung. In the opening of the psalm, David addresses it to the chief musician and states that it should be accompanied by the flute. While our purpose is to study the lyrics, it is easy for us to forget that this was a piece of music for the Israelites to praise God. Don’t lose sight of this as we move forward.
David is going to show us how to get each day started off right. He is going to call upon the Lord early in the morning and anticipate answers. He is going to identify those that live in sin and maintain His commitment to righteous living. Lastly, he will offer reasons for worshipping God and walking in His divine favor (protection).
Start Each Day Praying to God and Anticipate Answers
1Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning. 2Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray. 3In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
David is going to ask God in three different ways to listen to him when he prays. First, David simply asks God to lend an ear to his words. In this David realizes that there are certainly others making petitions to God and he is asking for his requests to find a place before the throne of the Almighty. Cornelius was a man in the New Testament that prayed to God continually and it was confirmed to him in a vision that his prayers had reached heaven as a memorial before God (Acts 10:2-4). Wouldn’t it be great if every time that you prayed, there was a reply, “Prayer received”? David wanted such confirmation. In this line of the psalm David is not so much concerned about how God will answer, but he simply desires audience with the LORD. We are promised that the Lord’s ears are open to the righteous.
Next, David asks God to consider his groaning. There will be times in our life in service to God where instead of words we express our inward pain by audible sounds that come from the depths of our being. Paul spoke of this in Roman 8:26, when he says,
“the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”
When you cannot say what needs to be prayed, the Holy Spirit gathers the groaning of our heart. I have been to this place before where you are in so much pain that you utter your feelings in sounds. God hears the message behind this kind of heartache. For example, in John 11:32-33, the Bible records our Lord’s response to the death of His friend Lazarus, “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit (moved deeply in the spirit NASB) and was troubled.” What is this groaning in the spirit and being troubled? Let’s keep reading in verses 35-36, “Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how much He loved him!’” Then in verse 38 we continue, “Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Verse 40 says, “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that you always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Jesus never said anything to His Father, did He? What does Jesus mean that the Father heard Him? While some might speculate that Jesus must have uttered a quick prayer somewhere in the text, the only two things that could have been heard by God were His groaning in the spirit and His being troubled at the loss of His friend. God heard Him and allowed Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. It is interesting to point out that in this context we have all three types of prayer that we find in Psalm 5. Mary falls before the Lord in petition and acknowledgement of his ability. We see the Lord groaning in His spirit along with all who gathered there. Think of it like a baby before they can talk. What do they do to let us know that they need something? They groan, they whimper, they whine, they cry aloud on some occasions. We know by this that they are troubled by something, so we respond. We interpret these sounds and begin working to find out what is wrong and how we can help. Even when we grow older, we will find that a heartfelt need can be shared before God with groaning. He wants to deliver us out of our troubles.
We also see the third type of prayer in the story of Lazarus where there is weeping from Mary and the Jews that came with her for the Lord to help with the loss of Lazarus. David says in the psalm,
“Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.”
David acknowledges the LORD as his King even though he himself was a king. In other words, I reverence you as Sovereign, I honor you as Holy, and I uplift you as Awesome and because I know that you reign supreme over all things, I pray to You. I don’t pray to false gods. I don’t beseech earthly kings and rulers. I don’t look to myself for answers. I look up to You, Lord. This is important for us to learn. Since God is on the other end of the line, David asks Him to heed the sound of his cry for help.
David tells the Lord of his early requests and his eager anticipation for answers. This is David’s way of making an appointment with God. It is also David’s way of showing God the importance that he places on talking with his God. David doesn’t wait until something bad is happening throughout the day to pray. David starts every day with pouring his heart out to God. Can you think of a better way to kick off a brand-new morning? Consider Jesus in Mark 1:35, where we read,
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”
Sometimes it is those early hours before everyone else is up that you wake before the sunrise, you take a deep breath of fresh morning air, you are grateful that you are blessed with another day. How should you respond? PRAY! Give thanks and let God hear your voice. He wants to hear from you! David gets started early sending his petitions as the text says, “I order my prayer to You”. By order, he does not mean demand, but like placing an order in order. He strategically lays out what he needs and sends the request to God. David arranges a prayer like a sacrifice to offer to God.
When you place an order on Amazon, especially if you take advantage of prime day, what do you do? You wait eagerly for the package to arrive, and you cannot wait to get the thing you ordered. What confidence do you have in Amazon to believe that what you ordered will arrive as requested and on time? They have become a reputable company and many people shop with them now. David has even more excitement and expectation when He goes to God in prayer. God has proven Himself to be good, caring, on time and delivers exactly what we request according to His will. David places his order and “eagerly watches”. This phrase conjures up the picture of someone placed on a watch in a watchtower. He is scanning the horizon for the arrival of his answers. Every day is a prime day for prayer. He keeps checking the front porch, and he goes back to the mailbox to see if it has arrived. He stands by the front door looking up and down the road for the delivery. David believed before he ever received that what he ordered was coming because of who he ordered it from. His request went to the Amazing, Almighty, Awesome God of heaven and earth. Amazon doesn’t even compare to the storehouse of heaven and the reliability of God when His people come to Him by faith and pray. 3. How is your prayer life? Do you take a moment to pause in the morning and pray? Let me encourage you to at least start each day with a quick prayer. Then you can watch eagerly throughout the day for God to move on your behalf. He is waiting to hear from you. Don’t forget to pray regularly or to follow what Paul said, “pray without ceasing”. In Psalm 55:17, David acknowledged that while morning prayer is a great start, he also prays at noon and in the evening (in other words, all day long) and he believed God would listen.
Start Each Day in God’s Righteousness and Avoid Evil
4For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. 5The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. 6You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. 7But as for me, by Your abundant loving kindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. 8O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me. 9There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. 10Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, For they are rebellious against You.
David points out in prayer some important truths about God’s righteousness. If you want to get the day started right, you need to know God and His qualities. God already knows His character, so why does David include these in the psalm as if to inform God? First, he wants God to know that he (David) understands His divine attributes. Secondly, it is good for us to speak these truths as a reminder to ourselves and others who might hear us. Thirdly, as this was a song, anytime its lyrics were sung, it reminded the righteous and the unrighteous of their place before a holy God. David points out that since God is holy, righteous and should be revered, it does not please God to see someone live a life of sin. To choose sin over serving God is an act of rebellion. This will never be pleasing to the Lord. Light and darkness cannot dwell together. Since God is light, and in Him there is not darkness at all, only those that walk in the light will be able to have fellowship with God by being freed from sin by the blood of Jesus. (I John 1:5-7). If we hope to spend eternity with God and to find blessings from God while we dwell on this earth, we need to be free from the practices of wickedness and living a life in the light of God’s word.
Instead of putting away evil, many people boast in their unrighteousness and these individuals will not be able to stand in the presence of God (See Psalm 1:5), even though for the time being they take their stand against His will. These people are repulsive to God because of His holiness. David says,
“He hates all who do iniquity”.
This is interesting because we have always said, “God hates the sin and not the sinner.” Listen! God is simply too holy and righteous to allow evil to dwell with Him. It is not that He wants to cast souls into hell. The fact is that God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. The truth is that the sinner will go to hell if they never surrender their life to Jesus and obey the gospel. God loved us enough to send Jesus while we were still in our sins. If we choose to reject that gift of His mercy and grace, we will not be approved by God on the judgment day. He has no choice but to hate sin and He will despise those that are found in sin when He judges the world. We are living amongst those that call evil things good and good things evil. It is happening every day and instead of being able to stop it, we are being told to be more ecumenical, tolerant and in many cases accept sin while being forced to embrace it or be charged with hate crimes. The days are drawing near where you and I are going to be the minority in seeking to obey the teachings of God’s word and uphold them in the face of opposition.
David goes on to say that God will destroy liars and those who deny the truth. There is no such thing as a white lie. All lies are opposed to truth. Liars are in the same boats as murderers according to the Lord (Rev. 21:8). Also, anyone who is quick to shed blood or deceive others will not be in His good graces when they answer for their actions in this life. Their end will be destruction by the hand of God. That is why those who are currently pushing to legalize abortion into the latest term of pregnancy are going to be punished. This is a huge issue for us today and we need to take a stand for those who cannot stand up for themselves. These are children that are being killed. We don’t have the right to take a life that God is forming and fashioning in the womb. But bloodshed goes beyond abortion. Consider that we are taught that if we hate our brother, we have already committed murder in our hearts. We aren’t allowed to only use this text for the most despicable crimes. We must pray for our enemies and learn to turn the other cheek. The continuing issues of fighting with our neighbor need to stop. We are so quick these days to wish someone pain, suffering, even death because of something they may have said or done against us. The example left for us is,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing?”
The famous words of Jesus on the cross teach us that we aren’t to utter threats, speak evil or worse, take matters into our own hands and initiate revenge. We are taught that the wrath and judgment belong to the LORD, and He will carry it out someday in righteous judgment. Our job is to preach the truth in love and pray that those ignorant of the will of God will come to know Him and serve Him. This is critical right now in our world as we are divided over many things. In the end, the only thing that will matter is if we walked in truth while avoiding deceitfulness.
David ends his discussion about the LORD by saying that if we are upright in the face of those that are wicked by the deep love of God we will continue to praise and worship Him out of complete reverence and devotion to Him. We will enter His presence in worship. David says, “as for me”, meaning that in spite of what everyone else is doing, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (See Josh 24:15) We don’t have time to play games, to live selfishly, to continue in sinful behaviors. We need to keep our eyes above in prayer and praise to God. David was going to enter the house of the Lord and prostrate himself in worship toward God. David says, “I will bow in reverence for You.” Do you revere God and honor Him in worship? This worship starts with the saints who make up the house of God but extends into our daily activities which bring God praise through our sacrifices made in giving thanks and acts of service and love in His name. Do you make a practice of assembling for worship? Are you a living sacrifice on the altar of the Lord’s service? This is how you kick off every day of the week right. This worship will feed the fire that will keep you on fire for the Lord every day. Don’t miss the opportunities that are offered to you to worship God.
David adds to his prayer asking God for direction to do what is right. David says,
“O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me.”
In other words, since I have so many surrounding me that are taking a crooked path that is not according to Your will, and they want to drag me down with them, I need Your leadership LORD to gain guidance for my steps. He wants the way of God to be clear before His eyes. What a beautiful request! We don’t want to be crooked (Phil. 2:15; Acts 2:40)
Next, we see four reasons why David asked this request for direction from God. First, “there is nothing reliable in what they say”. The only person David could trust was God. This explains his prayer to God, while surrounded by these unreliable sources. He said, “Their inward part is destruction itself.” They do not build up but tear down. David needs to be uplifted and the only avenue where he can find any encouragement is through the avenue of prayer. The people in David’s path are filled with a spirit set to ravage him with their words. David continues, “Their throat is an open grave.” Their words reek of rottenness and death and if you listen to their speech it leads to death. David wants life and looks to God as His guide. Finally, David says, “They flatter with their tongue.” This means that even when sinners attempt to speak in a positive fashion, they are merely flattering for the purpose of gaining an advantage over you. We need to avoid these kinds of people and rely solely on God and others that do trust in Him.
James warns about the dangers of the use of our tongue. It is powerful beyond measure. We can use it for good or with it we can set our world on fire. Don’t underestimate the power of words and do what you can to keep your tongue restrained. Remember that without a bridle on our tongue, our religion/faith is worthless. We need pure and undefiled religion and part of that is using our tongue to bless others and pray to God in times of need.
David ends this section by asking God to hold these sinners accountable. He says the following three things: Hold them guilty, let them fall, and thrust them out. What is his reason? He says to God “They are rebellious against you”. So, the conclusion from this part of the psalm is that we can either be righteous or rebellious. We must make a choice because there is no middle ground. We are not talking about self-righteousness but a righteousness that is declared by God on those who live as God has called them to live.
Start Each Day with Worship to God and Enjoy His Favor
11But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You. 12For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.
Gladness and joy are to fill the hearts of those that take refuge in the shelter of the Lord. Every single child of God should be glad since they have found a hiding place in the Lord. God is a bulwark, a mighty tower, a cleft in the rock, a shelter in a time of storm. He protects all who choose to take cover in Him. We are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). We are clothed with Christ, and no one can take us out of His hand. Thank God for his coverage and care.
David says that this gladness should result in a life filled with praise as we sing for joy. He also adds that everyone that loves the name of the Lord is to exult in the Lord. Lift the Lord up in praise. He took you in and kept you from certain death and eternal destruction. For this tender care we offer to Him the fruit of our lips in giving thanks and praise. Worship the Lord because He is worthy!
God is the source of all blessings and favor for the righteous man. God surrounds us with his goodness, and it forms a shield of protection. A few psalms ago we talked about how David said that God was a shield about him. We not only are barricaded and kept from the enemy, but in the comfort of God’s fortification we can cherish his constant blessings.
The key to this is that we maintain our faith in the Lord and stay near to His side. In this verse David points out that God is the one who blesses, but he also points out that the recipient of the blessings will be those that are righteous before Him. Those that do not live for the Lord and choose not to please Him do not meet this description. This beatitude must be written on our hearts, “Blessed are the righteous”.
Today we have learned how to start each day off on the right foot. First, we began with prayer and waiting in eager expectation for answers. Next, we set our mind to live righteous lives and avoid wickedness. Finally, we fill our days with worship and enjoy the favor shown to us by God. What a beautiful song David has written in the form of a prayer. I hope that we will remember these words as we continue to grow in our faith.
If you are one of those curious souls, but you have never given your life to the Lord, I want to help you. After hearing about his love, favor, care, protection, salvation etc. you do you want to start this day off with coming in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you believe that He is the Savior, the Son of God and you are willing to repent of your sins, confess your faith in Jesus and be immersed in water for the remission of sins, I will rejoice with you in that decision today and would love to assist you in getting in contact with a local church that will help you in your area. As a child of God, if you have taken a crooked path or in some way you have strayed from the dedication that you once had. If you just want to ask for encouragement or strength for some struggle that you are having spiritually. I would also ask that you start this day off by using this time to make sure you are in good standing with the Lord.
If you have a spiritual need, please reach out and I will be glad to help.