Theme: Praying in Faith
In this week’s lessons from Psalm 119, we learn how prayer and Bible study work together to increase our faith.
Scripture: Psalm 119:145-152
The fourth truth to be learned about prayer in these verses is that prayer must be in faith, believing. It must be earnest, a constant way of life, and biblical, but it must also be in faith. I referred earlier to the book of James because James has so much to say about prayer, looking at the close of chapter 5. But James also writes about prayer in chapter 1. In that chapter he is urging us to pray for wisdom, promising that if a man asks for wisdom, God will give it. Then he adds wisely, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6, 7).
But suppose we do doubt? And we do! What then? Clearly, we must ask God even for the faith we need to pray in faith. We must be like the man who asked Jesus to heal his demon-possessed son. He begged Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“If you can?” said Jesus in mild surprise. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
The man exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). And Jesus healed his son.
Like that desperate father, our faith is not strong. It is always mixed with unbelief and doubt. But God gives faith and strengthens faith. Moreover, we do not need an overwhelming amount of faith for God to hear us, since the believer’s strength is not in his faith but in God who is faith’s object. We remember how Jesus also said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).
How is this faith cultivated? Obviously, it is cultivated by studying the Bible, by learning what God is like. As we study the Bible we get to know God, and our faith is made strong because it is in him.
The psalmist did this. The stanza tells us that he studied the Bible prayerfully day and night and that what he learned specifically was that although his enemies were “near” (v. 150), God was also “near” (v. 150), the truth we saw at the beginning of this study. This tells us that it is the presence of God perceived in Bible study that frees us from our fears and makes us strong in faith. The last line says about God’s statutes, “…you established them to last forever.” But the person who builds on them will also stand firm and forever. We sing about it in that great hymn from Rippon’s “Selection of Hymns” (1787):
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!What more can he say than to you he has said,To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;For I am your God, and will still give you aid;I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,I will not, I will not desert to his foes;That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
Nothing is more certain than our security in Jesus Christ. Jesus was ordained to be our Savior from sin before the foundation of the world. He achieved that salvation by his perfect atonement for us in time. God has promised that nothing will ever separate us from him. We need to learn that, to have it firmly fixed in our minds and to live it with confidence. But the only way that will ever happen—the only way God’s people will ever be strong and be unshaken by enemies and by life’s many trials—is by prayerful Bible study. They must be people of the Book.
Do we value God’s Word? That great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Bubbles please boys, but men prize those things which are solid and substantial, with a foundation and a bottom to them which will bear the test of ages.”1
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 88-119, p. 404.
What are we to do when we have doubts?
Why is it important to realize that our faith is not in our faith?
What did the psalmist learn when he studied the Bible prayerfully?
Prayer: If you have doubts that God will hear your prayers, pray that he will help you overcome disbelief.
Key Point: As we study the Bible we get to know God, and our faith is made strong because it is in him.
For Further Study: The Psalms are filled with prayers of all kinds, which can be used to help us in our own times of prayer. If you would like to add James Boice’s published sermons on the complete Psalter, order your copy of the three-volume set and take 25% off the regular price.