Psalm 5 Always On Call

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Questions: What does it mean to pray? Why bother? Does it matter who we pray to? Does it matter who we are when pray? “Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 5:1-12

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct [my prayer] unto thee, and will look up.

I’ve this verse many times in the context of teachings on “How to have a quiet time.” However — thanks to my online interlinear — this is the first chance I’ve had to delve into the meaning of the word pray (“palal ” in Hebrew). I had assumed it originally meant “to plead” (as we occasionally use the term in English). But no, the primary meaning of Strong’s number 06419 appears to be “judging “, as in:

1Sa 2:25 If one man sin against another, the judge 0430 shall judge 06419 him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat 06419 for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened 08085 not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.

This verse is particularly intriguing, as it contains both sense of the words. In fact, this strongly implies that prayer is not primarily about “supplication”, e.g., asking for what we happen to want. Rather, it is about “alignment” — asking for God’s justice to be done. Which would certainly explain the next few verses:

For thou [art] not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

This may seem pretty obvious stuff to us, but I suspect it wasn’t in David’s time. From what I little I understand of ancient polytheism, “moral purity” was neither an attribute of the gods nor an expectation of worshippers. David is reminding himself that God can’t be bought or berated or wheedled into doing something evil on our behalf. That is also why he says he’ll “lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” — we can’t change God’s character, so there’s no point in harassing him. Rather, we need to humble ourselves so we are in alignment with what He already desires to do:

But as for me, I will come [into] thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: [and] in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

Note that David isn’t even trusting in his own righteousness, but asking for mercy and God’s righteousness. This in contrast to his enemies who trust in their own (un)righteousness:

For [there is] no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part [is] very wickedness; their throat [is] an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.

It may seem a subtle distinction, but David is explicitly asking God to destroy his enemies because “they are wicked” not because “they are my enemies.” Ouch. Presumably God does still watch March Madness, but He apparently doesn’t play favorites (despite the numerous ‘foxhole prayers‘ at betting pools around the country :-).

Why does this matter? Well, the clear implication for me is that the question isn’t whether God is on our side, but whether we are on His! In fact, I wonder if that is what “waiting in prayer” is all about — trying to find out how to align our requests (and our selves!) with who God already is:

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as [with] a shield.

Which begs the question: am I the kind of person who asks of God what He can justly give?

Prayer

God, I am humbled by the realization of my own unworthiness, how I often plead with you for things to feed my flesh and my ego, not necessarily what accomplishes Your purposes. Teach me more of your Law and your Righteousness, that I may offer you the acceptable sacrifice of a contrite heart and a humble spirit. Teach me to trust in you, and your goodness, that I may pray prayers that deserve to be answered. I ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of all those doctors who are “on call” in case of emergency. Especially those interns whose call schedule is being determined by the Python script I am currently writing. 🙂 I also realized that — like God — the right reason to “call on” a medical doctor is to find out what you need, not demand what you think you need.

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