To guide us in our worship readiness this Lord’s Day we turn to Psalm 141, another “psalm of David” according to the heading. The entire psalm is a prayer, and so is fitting for us as we enter the Lord’s house of prayer and supplication, to bring our needs to the high King of heaven, Who hears His children’s praise and pleas and answers them according to His abundant mercy and grace in Jesus Christ.
Here is the prayer(s) David uttered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit:
Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.
5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
6 When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.
7 Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.
8 But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.
9 Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.
As you read through this psalm and meditate on it, you will notice that David brings a varied prayer before his heavenly Father. Standing in God’s presence he is confident to bring several different petitions to Him. This is the prayer of faith too, that the child of God is not afraid to bring his many needs to the throne of grace. And from this varied prayer of David we too may learn how to pray and what to pray for when we come to our Father in heaven with our needs.
Notice at the outset that David expresses the need and urgency of his prayer to God (v.1). He not only asks to be heard but he asks that God “make haste” to hear him. It may seem to us to be presumptuous and even irreverent for David to tell God to hurry to hear him, but this too arises out of true faith. The child of God prays out of the sense of deep need and at the same time realizes that only God can hear and help him. So at times he will make this known to God too: “Lord, my need is great and urgent. Give me Your ear and haste to do this!”
Do you ever ask God to do this for you? I have to admit I don’t think I ever have. But maybe that is because I don’t realize sufficiently what a beggar I am and how eager my Father is to hear me and help me. Let us learn from the example of David.
Further, you will see that David views his prayer as worship and wants it to be acknowledged as such by the Lord. In v.2 he uses the language of the tabernacle (temple) – prayer as incense and the evening sacrifice. He wants God to receive his prayer as an offering, a sacrifice of praise and thanks that is sweet-smelling to God, and that will therefore be received by Him (cf. Luke 1:8-10; Rev.8:3)).
Do we think of our prayers this way? We ought to, for this is what they are and must be. But how shall our prayers ever rise as a sweet incense to the God of holy nostrils? Only on the basis of the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through His High-priestly work in heaven on our behalf. This too belongs to the prayer of faith, that we come only and ever in Jesus’ name, no matter the need and circumstances. Prayer time is worship time. May we ask that it be as incense and as a sacrifice pleasing to our God.
Now pay attention to David’s petitions here. What does he ask for? In v.3 that God set a watch before his mouth to guard what he says in His presence. In v.4 that his heart not be led into any evil so that he not work wicked works with wicked men. In v.5 that he be open to the smitings and reprovings of his fellow saints, which are good for him. And conscious of the enemies about him and his weak standing (v.7) he states that God is all his trust, asking that God not leave him alone but keep him from the sinful traps of the wicked (vss.8-9). And in fact, he prays that God let the wicked fall into their own traps while he escapes (v.10).
What are these requests but those of a needy, dependent child of God who realizes that he can bring anything to the Lord! And who realizes that the sovereign God is able to help him in every situation and give grace sufficient for any need! David’s heart and mouth are open to his God as he prays. While he prays carefully and reverently, he also prays with confidence that he can tell the Lord everything with regard to his needs.
God is honored and praised when we too pray in this confidence. Is our heart and mouth so open to our heavenly Father? Do we truly realize our need before Him and do we truly believe He that open to us, that we can ask Him anything?
Let us remember that we pray in and through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us know that for His sake our Father will never turn us away or ever reject a petition prayed according to His will. And let us remember to praise and thank Him for this glorious blessing of our salvation!
If you desire to meditate on Psalm 141 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):
1. O Lord, make haste to hear my cry,
To Thee I call, on Thee rely;
Incline to me a gracious ear,
And, when I call, in mercy hear.
2. When in the morning unto Thee
I lift my voice and bring my plea,
Then let my prayer as incense rise
To God enthroned above the skies.
3. When unto Thee I look and pray
With lifted hands at close of day,
Then as the evening sacrifice
Let my request accepted rise.
4. Guard Thou my thoughts, I Thee implore,
And of my lips keep Thou the door;
Nor leave my sinful heart to stray
Where evil footsteps lead the way.
5. O righteous God, Thy chastisement,
Though sent through foes, in love is sent;
Though grievous, it will profit me,
A healing ointment it shall be.
6. While wickedness my foes devise,
To Thee my constant prayer shall rise;
When their injustice is o’erthrown
My gentleness shall still be shown.
7. Brought nigh to death and sore distressed,
O Lord, my God, in Thee I rest;
Forsake me not, I look to Thee,
Let me Thy great salvation see.
8. Themselves entangled in their snare,
Their own defeat my foes prepare;
O keep me, Lord, nor let me fall,
Protect and lead me safe through all.
The PR Psalm-Singing Choir also has a video of its performance of this number: