Dear Annie: Prepare for prayer
When you first hear the words “prepare for prayer,” you might think, “what?” Let me ask a few questions.
If you received an invitation to the White House, the very Oval Office, would you prepare? Or an invitation to meet with the queen, would you prepare? Or to have dinner with your favorite movie star or sports athlete, would you prepare?
Prayer is our meeting with God, the Almighty Lord, our Creator, our Savior. Our prayers can come from deep within and with all sincerity. However, too often we tend to go to God in prayer quickly with requests, “give-me’s” only in desperation for answers or memorized prayers that we just recite without really focusing on what we are saying.
Many of our prayers can go without praise or gratitude. We can leave our prayer time feeling empty or our prayers are not answered as we wanted. Why? It is all a matter of the heart and the closeness of our relationship with God.
Psalm 15 is a great Psalm regarding closeness to God. It was written by David. Now the Bible records that David was not perfect. He made many mistakes. Yet God chose David to be king because “…I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart.” Acts 13:22
If you want to be closer to God and a deeper prayer life, you have to want to have a heart like God’s. Psalm 15 was sung before prayer to prepare for prayer.
David starts Psalm 15 with two questions directed to God. Basically, David is asking God who can worship God in His sanctuary. How can a person come the closest to God?
These two questions carry a lot of meaning concerning God. David is first acknowledging who God is. Only God is worthy and the most important thing is to desire to be with Him. Jesus gave us a prayer format to follow in the Lord’s prayer. It starts much like Psalm 15 identifying who God is with praise, gratitude and humility
David answers the questions with ten characteristics for the person who wants to have a heart like God’s. Each statement is like the rungs of a ladder going closer and closer to God.
First, if a person wants a heart like God’s, their “walk is blameless.” Blameless means “without guilt, innocent, pure, holy.” The way to be “blameless” before God starts with Jesus. By putting our faith in Jesus, we are covered by His sacrifice and are “blameless before God.” By being blameless through Jesus does not mean we will be “sinless.” We still live in a broken world, deal with choices between God and the world. But it does mean we will “sin less” because we are more aware by the nudging of the Holy Spirit what is good and what is not.
Second, we “do what is righteous.” Righteous just means we do what is right. The key word here is “do.” We don’t just hope or talk about doing right God’s way, we do it.
Third, we “speak the truth from our heart.” We are honest, loving, sincere, trustworthy and just when we speak from the heart; no lies, flattery or falsehoods. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evils red in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” Luke 6:45
Fourth, “our tongue utters no slander.” I think we need some definitions here: Gossip is saying something negative when the person is not there; Slander is saying something not true or half-true when the person is not there. We are not to say false and hurtful things about others. This a hard teaching when we ask “what are we saying about others?”
Fifth, we “do no wrong to our neighbor.” Our intent is never to harm someone especially on purpose..
Six, we “cast no slurs on others.” A slur is something about someone to insult them or damage their reputation. Instead, as in 1 Corinthians 5:11 “…encourage one another and build one another up…”
Seven, a person after God’s heart “despises a vile person and honors those who fear the Lord.” Vile is something that is “ruined, hardened, to be thrown away.” We still love others; we do not accept or excuse the actions of sin but we respect the faithful to God. To use a familiar line, hate the sin not the sinner.
Eight, we “keep oaths even when it hurts and do not change our minds.” Do not make a vow you cannot keep. We are to be true to our promises; the faithful finish. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, including our promises to God even if it hurts!
Nine, we “lend money to the poor without interest.” This may seem strange when our economy is based on credit such as the National Debt. In David’s time, a person would sell themselves for slavery or take out a loan to pay the debt. Interest rates could be as high as 50%. I think this verse is saying to us to be generous givers with no strings attached, not expecting rewards.
And ten, we “do not accept a bribe against the innocent.” This characteristic is self-explanatory. Bribes are a falsehood. God is a God of truth. We should be honest.
David concludes if a person desires and will do “these things will never be shaken.” And there is a lot happening today that has the potential to shake us. By believing and following God’s Word, we will have a strong, active, deep, personal and powerful prayer life. The troubles and storms of this life will not disrupt it.
Coming to God in prayer is a matter of the heart (what’s inside). It will determine the spiritual direction of your prayer. This is the purpose of Psalm 15 to “prepare for prayer.”
The intent of Psalm 15 is not to become legalistic or to suggest that you cannot come to God unless you are totally perfect. God’s love and forgiveness are always available. Psalm 15 is advising that we examine our hearts and our relationship with God, adjust what needs or can be adjusted as we come to God in prayer. Sin, hatred, unforgiveness, lies can all block our prayers to God. Emptying out what is not of God is prepare for prayer.
So here is your challenge. Read several translations of Psalm 15. Choose one and read it by inserting your name in each of the statements. Then ponder, is this accurate? Is this something I need to work on? Or maybe is there something I need to confess? It might seem strange in the beginning, so take “baby steps” slowly. Eventually it will become natural to you. The more we let go of selfish, sinful and worldly desires, the more of God’s love, joy and faithfulness can move in us. Prepare for prayer has taken a whole new meaning for me as I approach God.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Pastor Janis Heiser of River of Life Fellowship Church, Lock Haven.