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Second Sunday after Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, June 7, 2015

A Disciple's Prayer

TEXT: Psalm 130

Did you ever feel like a lost soul? Have you ever been in a dark place from which it seemed as if there was no escape? If so, you understand what the Psalmist is saying in the psalm we recited together a moment ago, Psalm 130. “Out of the depths I have called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.” (Psalm 130:1) Great words, uttered by a true believer.

I have found myself in that deep dark place twice in my life. The first time, it didn’t occur to me to cry out to God and ask Him to rescue me. The second time came just three years later, and this time, I did cry out to God. Maybe being in the depths all that time finally woke me up to remember where my salvation lay. I remembered the faith of my youth, and I remembered from whence my help would come. And so I did cry out to the Lord. And the Lord heard my plea.

I said that these words in Psalm 130 were uttered by a true believer. I don’t base that on the fact that the psalms are part of the Word of God. Nor do I base it on the assumption that it was David the King who prayed this prayer. I say the person was a true believer because of what the totality of his prayer demonstrates:

1.He longed for God.

2.He repented before God.

3.He waited on the Lord.

4.And He trusted in God’s promises.

Let’s spend a few minutes this morning considering this four-fold pattern in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. When you hit bottom, or you are in peril, or you don’t know what you should do next, where do you turn?

• Do you rely on your own strength, wisdom, charm, will power and persuasiveness?

• Or do you rely on those around you who seem to have it all together, or claim to have all the answers?

• Or do you turn to God?

Even true believers sometimes forget to ask God for what they need. But when we remember that He is the source of all our blessings, and we turn to Him, we realize that being fixed isn’t really what we are longing for. We are longing for God.

• We are longing for the Father whose love is everlasting.

• We are longing for Jesus, the compassionate face of God, the steadfast friend.

• We are longing for the Holy Spirit, the fresh wind who brings all things to life.

As St. Augustine observed many years ago, our souls are restless until they rest in God. There is an Iranian woman named Mina Nevisa who wrote a book called Miracle of Miracles. It is about her conversion to Christianity from Islam and the ordeal she went through. What led her to Jesus was that she wanted to know the God who made her. She longed “for a meaningful two-way relationship with Him.” (p. 22) The Muslim religion that she had grown up with was all rituals and obedience and recitation. She felt a compelling need to know God. And when she sought Him with all her heart, she found Him, just as He promises in His Word. (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13)

No matter how far we may have fallen, or how lost we may be, the presence of God is more welcome than the spring sunshine after a long harsh winter, more healing than a drink of water after a trek across the desert. It is God for whom the believer longs. In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, we focus on the pigs and the slop and the miserable state to which the son has fallen. And yes, it makes perfect sense for him to remember how good he had it as a privileged son of the rich farmer. But when he sees his father a long way off, and when he is standing there in his father’s forgiving embrace, don’t you think he must have realized that what he really missed was his father’s love? He had spurned his father’s love and gone off on his own and made a mess of things. But what really needed to be fixed was not the mess, it was the broken relationship. He longed for his father.

That goodness and love of God bring us to a place to the second thing we see in Psalm 130: repentance. Listen again to verses 2 and 3:

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

God has implanted in us an awareness of right and wrong. Many who do not believe in Him deny what it is they are experiencing. It doesn’t feel good, so they blame it on religion. They say religion focuses too much on guilt, which leads to shame. The believer, on the other hand, has a robust sense of what God expects of us. We know what pleases God. We know what God says is good for us. And so, we are driven to come before God and repent of our sins. Not only are we driven, but we are willing. We are willing, because, as the Psalmist says, in God there is forgiveness. We can trust that God will restore our relationship with Him if we will ask His forgiveness.

In the Gospels, we can see that there was something about Jesus that made people want to repent when He came into their presence. The first time Peter met Jesus, when Jesus told them where to drop their net and they hauled in a miraculous catch of fish, what was Peter’s response? He fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)

The day Jesus came into town and saw the scoundrel, Zacchaeus, up in a tree and called out to him: what was Zacchaeus’ response? He said to Jesus, “Lord, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8) Jesus, in His goodness and holiness and compassion and love, makes us want to repent before Him.

That is what was going on in the Psalmist. He was calling out from the pit, asking God to save him. And in anticipation that the God he knew would hear his prayer, he saw himself as a sinner and repented.

We see the Psalmist, therefore, as a person who longs for God and who repents before God. And now, in verses 5 and 6, we see him waiting on the Lord:

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for Him;

in His word is my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Waiting on the Lord is a central part of the Christian life. As the Bible says, “With the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8) God’s timetable is not our timetable. What may seem like a long time to us is just an instant to God. And when He decides what to do when, He has His eternal purposes in mind at all times. Maybe saying yes to us right now will not be in the best service of God’s overall plans. Many a Christian has prayed for things for years on end, waiting for God to give His answer.

But waiting on God has a certain character. Jesus told us to be on watch, to be ready, for we do not know when He will come. Watchfulness and readiness are part of the character of the disciple’s waiting. It comes from our belief that God is going to act. That is what the Psalmist meant when he said, “ soul waits for Him; in His word is my hope.” God is truth. God has revealed things to us. God has made promises to us. So when we wait for Him to do things, it is an expectant waiting, filled with hope, sweetened by anticipation of an experience of His goodness.

Of course, in the midst of it, the sweetness is not always readily apparent. That is because we don’t know whether God’s answer is going to be “yes,” “no,” or “not yet.” In our human nature, we want what we want, and we think we are in a position to tell God that is what He should give us. But He always knows better than we do what we need and what we should have.

I am sure you have met a spoiled child or two in your time. A child will demand what he wants from his parents and anyone else in a position to give it. A spoiled child is one who always gets that wish. And what you soon notice is that the spoiled child’s life gets confused. Nothing is ever enough. Nothing turns out to be as good as he thought it would be. He goes from one thing to another, seeking to fulfill this inner craving for something he can’t quite name. And in the process, he makes everyone around him miserable.

We recently have seen this phenomenon with our cats. They have three humans to wait on them, and they pretty much get whatever they ask for. As a result, they will go in and out, in and out, a hundred times a day. If they are inside, they want desperately to go out. I may let them out the front door. And five minutes later, they have gone around to the back door and are frantically scratching at the door to come in. Nights have been especially difficult. One of the cats learned that she could climb the screen on the back porch and make a big racket that would wake us up. And someone would inevitably let her in to shut her up. Then, ten minutes later, she would do the same thing on the inside blinds in our bedroom.

A few weeks ago, we started using a white noise machine to help us sleep. And with the machine on, we can’t hear the cat plucking at the screen. So she has had to stay out all night. We have discovered something very interesting. She has calmed way down. She doesn’t ask to go in and out all the time anymore. She has a sweeter disposition. Could it be that she is in recovery from being a spoiled cat?

I’m afraid that our interaction with God is somewhat like the cat. We want what we want, when we want it. But God knows that we are easily spoiled. The more He indulges us, the more tempted we are to long for the gifts, rather than the giver. And so He makes us wait upon Him.

And we do wait, because, just as the Psalmist, the believer knows that God’s promises are good. The believer knows that the Word of God is the truth. And we know that when God promises something, it is as certain as if it were happening right this moment. There are hundreds of promises in the Bible, all summed up by, “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” We belong to Him. We are His children.

• He has promised us that everyone who believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.

• He has told us that the things He has prepared for those who love Him exceed our wildest imagining.

• He has told us that He works all things together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

• He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

• He has promised to be with us always until the end of the ages.

The Christian hope is not a wistful daydream about how we would like things to turn out. The Christian hope is the certainty of things not yet seen, because the sovereign Lord of the universe has said they will be that way. And so, the Psalmist finished his prayer with these words:

O Israel, wait for the Lord,

for with the Lord there is mercy;

with Him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Israel went through some very bad times because of their sins. They were God’s people, but they worshipped false gods and lived in conflict with God’s laws. Were they any different from anyone else? No. The words God spoke to them ring as true today here in our nation and our chaotic world:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14; see also Deuteronomy 30:1-10]

It is not a vain hope. It is a promise in which we can live as we wait on the Lord. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, trusted God implicitly to provide the people and the finances to do the work God had given him to do. His great-grandson, James, carries on his work with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. James Taylor recently described that trust this way:

We . . . begin from a position of faith. We believe God does exist. We have become convinced of this in a variety of ways, but all of us have experienced the grace of God in bringing us to know Himself through Jesus Christ and through rebirth by His Spirit. We believe we have good grounds of believing in Him through the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: we believe that someone who said He would die and rise again, and did it, is credible in every other way. Therefore we are prepared to trust Him, not only for the eternal salvation of our souls, but also for the practical provision of our daily bread....

The Psalmist has given us a model of Christian prayer:

• Longing for God

• Repenting before Him

• Waiting on Him

• And trusting Him

When you trust God, waiting on Him becomes a joy. No longer are you frantically wondering if God will deliver. Instead, you are eagerly anticipating the moment when He will com walking through the door.

© Jeffrey O. Cerar 2015

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