For a while now, on Wednesday evenings, I have been taking one of the Psalms each time and just touching on the highlights of the Psalm as an encouragement to prayer. The Psalms are filled with examples of prayer as well as instruction. The writers are real people with real problems, fears, and doubts. We are permitted to listen in as they bring their praise and their requests to God.
Last week, as I was meditating on Psalm 17, I was blown away by both the tone and the content of David's prayer, especially by the first four verses. Here read them for yourself.
Psa 17:1 Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips.
Psa 17:2 Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.
Psa 17:3 Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Psa 17:4 Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.
See what I mean? David is asking God to hear his prayer based on his own personal integrity, rightness and innocence. Now we all know that David would never make any claim to sinless perfection, but in this instance, he claims to be clean.
How could anyone , even a pre-Bathsheba David be bold enough to pray this way? I think the reason that David could pray this way is that as far as his claim to personal integrity went, it was true. There are at least 3 very important things that had characterized David's life up to that point. (This Psalm was probably written during the time when he was fleeing from Saul.) Three things that he constantly practiced, that made it possible for him to pray this way.
First and most importantly, he worshiped God. God's own testimony of him was:"...I have found David... A man after mine own heart..."(Acts13:22) David spent much time in communion with God. He knew God's heart and sought to model it in his own life. He lived with a constant awareness of God. He lived his life before the Lord. Psalm 8 brings to my mind an image of young David, the shepherd, sitting on a Judean hill looking into a vast, starlit sky and worshiping the God who is great enough to make it all; yet is merciful enough to condescend to lowly man. When one lives like that, there are no impediments to prayer.
Also, David was careful. He tried always face every trial in a way that would most glorify God. He was careful not to seek his own advancement. He was careful not to act rashly, even when men would say he was justified in doing so. One of the greatest examples of this is his treatment of Saul while he was trying to kill David. On at least two occasions, it appeared that God had delivered Saul into David's hands. The occasion at En-gedi illustrates David's carefulness. David and his men are in a cave. Saul, not knowing that David and his men are in the cave, goes in to take a break(?). While he is there and very vulnerable, David is encouraged by his men to take advantage of the situation. "God has delivered your enemy into your hands" they say. David refuses to harm Saul, but he does cut off a part of Saul's robe. Then David's heart convicts him for even going that far in "Touching the Lord's anointed". When one is that careful with his actions and attitudes; when one is that sensitive in his heart, there will be no hindrance to prayer.
The third characteristic of David's young life, that enabled him to pray with such boldness, was his utter dependence on God. When David faced Goliath, he did not go with Saul's armour. He refused the armour not because it didn't fit, for surely there was armour available that would have fit his size. He refused the armour because it represented a dependence on human ingenuity. He wanted every one to know who the real Protector of Israel was. He went to battle the giant depending on God.
When David faced Saul at En-gedi after the robe trimming incident, he explained his refusal to harm Saul in this way:
1Sa 24:12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
David knew that God had anointed him to be king. He knew that one day he was destined to sit on the throne of Israel. Even so, he would not put forth his hand to take it for himself. He would wait for God to do it in His time and in His way. One whose life is characterized by utter dependence on God will be able to pray boldly.
The point of all this rambling is this: The way we live is vitally connected to the way we pray. We can't live sloppy, half-hearted, semi-worldly lives and expect to pray in holy boldness. Because of the way David lived, he was able to come before God with confidence. Or as someone has said: "As a son seeking approval rather than as a criminal seeking pardon."
"The whole life must pray"(Tozer), not just our lips.