The Book of Psalms

Tuesday: A Prayer before Retiring


Theme: Hindrances to Prayer
In this week’s lessons, we learn about David’s prayers, and how we, too, need to pray for God’s protection as we seek to live an upright life.
Scripture: Psalm 141:1-10
Why do we find prayer boring? There are a number of reasons. 
1. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. One reason we have so much trouble with prayer is that prayer is talking to God and God is not like us. Isaiah quotes God as saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa. 55:8). And again, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (v. 9). Because we are not like God and do not know God well, we find that we are usually unsure of what we should pray for. And when we pray we sense often that we are somehow off the mark, that we should be praying for something else but hardly know what. 
2. We do not know the Bible. Our ignorance of God is traceable to our ignorance of the Bible. For while it is true that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways different from our ways, it is nevertheless also true that God has revealed his thoughts and ways to us in the Bible, at least those we are able to understand. So our ignorance of God is not his fault; it is ours. If we want to pray well, we must get to know the Bible, for only then will we begin to be able to think God’s thoughts after him. This is why the best prayer and the best Bible study always go together. 
3. We do not feel in need of God’s help. Having said all the above, however, I sense that the greatest reason why we have so much trouble praying and do not pray is that we do not feel we need God’s help. In other words, we think we can manage very well without God. The proof of this is the way we are instinctively moved to pray when things go wrong, when we lose a job or find some important relationship going sour. We know we should pray then, and we do. But at other times we feel self-sufficient. 
In spite of his power and authority as king, David did not feel self-sufficient. He knew he was in peril every single day. Therefore, he prayed every day, and he prayed powerfully. His prayer teaches us to do likewise. 
The first two verses of this psalm are an invocation, a call to God to hear what the psalmist is about to pray for. But even more than this, they are the starting point for true worship. By definition, worship is praising God, and in order to praise God we must address him. 
May I suggest that the most important moments in our prayer or worship times are before we even start. This is because it is in those moments of preparation that we settle our thoughts and remind ourselves that we are actually coming into the presence of Almighty God. Our worship times are not like other times. They are not like the hours we spend with our friends or our families or our co-workers. Those are important and valuable times, but they are not the same. Our times of prayer are when we meet with God. So we must be conscious that we are actually meeting with him. We must focus our thoughts, ask God to hear our prayers, and be sure that we are actually praying to him and not merely going through some religious exercise. 
Reuben A. Torrey, a great Bible teacher of an earlier generation, used to say that “we should never utter one syllable of prayer, either in public or in private, until we are definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God and are actually praying to him.”1
Torrey testifies that this insight transformed his own prayer life:
I was brought up to pray. I was taught to pray so early in life that I have not the slightest recollection of who taught me to pray…. Nevertheless, prayer was largely a matter of form. There was little real thought of God, and no real approach to God. And even after I was converted, yes, even after I had entered the ministry, prayer was largely a matter of form. 
But the day came when I realized what real prayer meant, realized that prayer was having an audience with God, actually coming into the presence of God and asking and getting things from him. And the realization of that fact transformed my prayer life. Before that prayer had been a mere duty, and sometimes a very irksome duty, but from that time on prayer has been not merely a duty but a privilege, one of the most highly esteemed privileges of life. Before that the thought that I had was, “How much time must I spend in prayer?” The thought that now possesses me is, “How much time may I spend in prayer without neglecting the other privileges and duties of life?”2
1Reuben A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), p. 75. 
2Ibid., pp. 76, 77. 
Study Questions: 

How does not knowing God well affect one’s prayers? What can we do about this? 
What is the greatest reason we do not pray? What example does David provide? 
How do the first two verses of Psalm 141 function? What is the importance of this? 

Key Point: If we want to pray well, we must get to know the Bible, for only then will we begin to be able to think God’s thoughts after him. 
Application: As you begin your next time of prayer, remember Torrey’s instruction to “be definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God.” 
Review: Review the reasons we find prayer boring. Do any apply to you?

Study Questions
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