Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Prayer

Just Ask

“What do you want me to do for you?” 

And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!”

Luke 18.41

Sometimes, the most obvious questions are the ones we never ask. Perhaps we think the questions are too obvious, the issues too mundane, or ourselves too unworthy of an answer. So the questions go unasked.

It’s not wrong for us to ask things, even of God. James said sometimes our problems come when we want something but never ask (James 4.2). When anxious we must bring our requests to God (Philippians 4.6). We’re assured that He hears our requests (John 16.23-24; 1 John 4.21-22).

The text from which the quotation is taken (Luke 18.18-43) gives a third account of Jesus healing the blind at Jericho (cf. Matthew 20.29-34; Mark 10.46-52). Comparing the three accounts shows that there were two blind beggars at the edge of town. They spoke with Jesus as he was leaving town, though Luke’s account mentions only the one beggar.

There’s a certain humor in the exchange. The beggar was visually impaired, but not vocally impaired (v. 38-39), and persistently called to Jesus. When he summoned the beggar, Jesus asked, “What do you want?” He had to ask?

The beggar gave a direct reply, “I want to see.” His request was as obvious as his condition.

In his comments on Mark’s parallel account, William Barclay notes: “He knew precisely what he wanted – his sight. Too often our admiration for Jesus is a vague attraction… When we go to the dentist we do not ask him to extract any tooth, but the one that is diseased. It should be so with us and Jesus. And that involves the one thing that so few people wish to face – self-examination.”

The problem is never that God doesn’t know what we want or need. Very often, we don’t know.

What is it that you want? Have you asked God specifically for that? 

Just ask.

Flood Insurance

Few things grab your attention the way flood waters do. 

Twice my wife and I have had significant flooding in the basement of two different houses. Once, a heavy rainstorm overwhelmed the storm sewers in our neighborhood and the water backed up through the floor drain. We had knee deep water in the basement. We had to replace our furnace, and we lost boxes and boxes of memorabilia. I remember watching a box of waterlogged books floating its way across the basement. 

Another time we also had a heavy rainstorm and the basement sump pump died. The main damage was to the flooring, which had to be replaced. But it took a lot of effort to get the floor cleaned and sanitized, to move the furniture around, and then eventually tile the basement floor. 

You can’t always anticipate when flooding will occur, but you can prepare for it. That’s true with houses and it’s true with spiritual disasters. 

David said, “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him” (Psalm 32.6). 

Psalm 32 is a penitential psalm about forgiveness. David had confessed his sin to God and God forgave him. In the first four verses, David describes the relief he felt when he experienced God’s forgiveness. In v. 6, David uses the imagery of flood waters to teach a lesson to spiritually alert people. They should always be on the lookout for sin and do everything in their power to avoid it. The second part of verse 6 gives the reason: If they’ve prepared for the storm beforehand, the flood waters won’t reach them. 

The time to buy flood insurance is before the flood hits. After the basement floods, it won’t do you much good. The time to prepare for a spiritual flood is before the temptation or trouble arrives. While the storm is raging, lack of preparation can be fatal.  

As David says, let’s pray to God when he may be found. Let’s prepare for temptation and trouble with daily prayer and Scripture meditation. Then and only then will we be safe from the flood waters. 

Hearing Jesus

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying…

Matthew 5.1-2 (NASB95)

Lord Jesus, I wish I could have heard you preach. I wish I could have followed you on foot in the villages and in the countryside, in public and in private. I wish I could have sat at your feet as did your disciples when you were here.

Lord, I’ve wondered how you sounded when you spoke. Did you speak loudly or softly? Were you animated or calm? Was your tone forceful and assertive, or was it quiet and assuring? Had I been there, would your voice have startled or frightened me? Would it have repelled me? Or would it have drawn me to you and made me desire an endless relationship with you?

Dear Lord, although I wasn’t there in your presence, I hear your voice in the pages of Scripture. I’m so thankful that your Holy Spirit preserved your sermons, sayings, parables, and conversations. When I read them, I picture you in my mind’s eye, and I imagine that I’m there. I read these words of yours and I’m challenged by their depth, inspired by their loftiness, encouraged by their kindness, and humbled by their truth. 

You challenged your audiences to have ears to hear, and that same challenge is for me as well. Dear Jesus, I’m not a good listener. When I read your words in Scripture my mind wanders. When I try to hear your voice in those words I’m distracted by the competing voices and noises in the world around me. As I ponder your teachings, I often get lost in my own thoughts. 

O Teacher, help me listen! Help me filter out the noise. Help me concentrate so intently upon you that nothing else can appeal to me. Let me comprehend the truthfulness, beauty, clarity, practicality, and depth of your matchless words. Let me hear you and you alone.

Jesus, my Lord and my God, grant me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand. Draw me nearer to you for your name’s sake, amen.

Unanswered Prayer

Can you be thankful when God says “No” to your prayers?

We often lament when our prayers go unanswered. Maybe God hasn’t said “Yes” or “No” but simply hasn’t answered at all. Perhaps God’s answer is a clear and unmistakable “No.” Then, we wonder what’s wrong. Is something wrong with us? We wonder and we lament.

Psalm 44 is a lament by the nation of Israel when they were defeated in battle. The first half of the psalm reflects upon God’s past victories and affirms Israel’s faithfulness. Verse 6 says, “I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me.” Verse 8 says, “In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to your name forever.”

Yet God allowed them to be defeated. Verse 9 says, “Yet you have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, and do not go out with our armies.” The text provides no explanation and emphasizes Israel’s bewilderment at their situation. They ask, “Why do you hide your face” (v. 23a).

Perhaps the answer is that God’s “No” is really intended to help us, even if we don’t understand.

  • What if God said “No” to your dream job because he knew it would take you away from your family?
  • What if God said “No” to healing a loved one because that person’s doctors might learn something that would help future patients with the same condition?
  • What if God said “No” to that special house because he knew that it would put you in a financial bind?
  • What if God said “No” to finding a spouse because it might mean less devotion to and dependence upon him?

Too often our responses to unanswered prayer reveal a lack of thoughtfulness about God and his ways, and they reveal a short-sightedness about his providence toward us. When we whole-heartedly trust him, he always does what is best for us. Even when he tells us “No”.

That’s how Psalm 44 resolves itself. It accepts the answer, even though there’s no explanation. The nation determines to continue seeking God, even though they don’t understand. Verses 17-18 say, “All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten you, and we have not dealt falsely with your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from your way.” It ends with a final appeal: “Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of your righteousness” (v. 26).

Thank God that sometimes he says “No.” Thank him, pray to him, and hope in him.

Abba! Father!

There are few words in our language that express as much emotional range as the word “Daddy”. On the lips of a child, it may express love, fear, panic, joy, anger, needs, sickness, or pain. We use it to express both intimacy and distance, respect and contempt, love and hate.

In Jewish culture their word for “father” was “abba” and expressed a similar range of feeling. It was used by both children and adults. It was one of the first words a child learned. 

It shouldn’t surprise us then that one of the primary biblical metaphors for God is that of a father. “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4.6)

The idea of God as a father originates in the Old Testament. Some twenty times he’s either called a father (fourteen times), compared to a father (four times), or he calls Israel his son (two times). The emphasis of this metaphor is upon God as the father of the nation of Israel. It’s not used to express a personal, individual relationship, but a corporate one.

God is our father because he created us. “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2.10a) God is the father of Israel. “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4.22). God is the father of the king. “He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89.26-27). 

As a father, God is first and foremost an authority figure. “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name” (Malachi 1.6). But as a father, he also shows tender compassion to his children. “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103.13-14). Because of this unique combination of authority and compassion, we see God as the one who forgives our sins. “‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31.20).

This picture of God as a father only deepens when we get to the New Testament. Here, Jesus refers to God as his father about 140 times, and God is presented as the father of believers about 50 times. The basic concepts are still there, but in a much fuller sense because of Jesus who revealed the Father in himself. “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1.18).

Jesus taught his disciples, and us, to pray to God our Father. He’s not a distant, unconcerned deity, but a loving father who cares for the needs of his children. It’s here in the New Testament, especially in prayer, that we see a much more personal and intimate view of God as our Father. “So do not be like [the pagans]; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6.8-9). God knows what we need before we even ask, yet he still wants us to ask.

Praying to God as our Father teaches us dependence upon him. “Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6.32-33). The bread of which Jesus spoke was himself and the eternal life he gave to us by giving himself on the cross. We depend upon our Father to provide all that we need, including life itself, both physical and spiritual.

But if we call God our Father, that imposes certain demands upon us as his children. If he’s our Father, then we must act like his children. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1.14-17). God’s children are holy and reverent, showing to the world around us what God-like character looks like.

God’s children also forgive in the same way as their Father. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). If God has released us from our moral debt to him, we must also release others from their moral debt to us. 

The privilege of being children of God includes eternal hope but requires moral purity in the meantime. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are… everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3.1a, 3). 

That hope is part of our inheritance from our Father. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8.14-17). 

Finally, to enter this Father-child relationship is a conscious choice each of us must make. It’s by faith that we become his children. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3.26-27).

Is God your Father?

A Prayer for Memphis

Blessed are you, O God our Father. You have created this world by your wisdom and might. You are the sovereign God, the only God, the God above all so-called gods. Everything in this world exists for your purpose and glory.

Blessed are you, O Son of God. You are very God and very Man. You existed from eternity in the heavens and yet you come into this world, to be bound by time, space, and human nature. In your death, resurrection, and exaltation, you have been anointed as King of kings and Lord of lords. You sit at the Father’s right hand interceding for your people, and it is through you that we call upon our Father.

Blessed are you, O Spirit of God. You know the mind of God and have revealed it. You are the one who gave life to this creation, the one who sustains and renews it to this very day. You are the down payment on our eternal hope, the Spirit who dwells in us.

We cry out to you, O God, because we are hurting. We are tired. We are afraid. We are outraged. We are confused. We are in the throes of despair. We wonder each day about the next tragedy, the next violent crime, and we wonder if or how we or our families will be affected. We try not to, but we look at others with suspicion and distrust. We do not know who the enemy is, and so rather than reach out, we recoil and retreat. 

We cry out to you, O God, because our city is gripped by violence, by murder and assault and theft and rape. Worst of all, our city is in the grip of epidemic sin. Sin and the work of Satan is behind all that we see. O Father, too many people have allowed the Devil to occupy the throne of their hearts, rather than letting You rule them. Too many operate from a posture of self-sufficiency, self-will, self-interest, and self-righteousness. Too many people love this world rather than its Creator, and they are full of greed, lawlessness, and disdain for their fellow man and woman.

O Sovereign God, we confess our sins and failures to you. As a society, we have neglected true justice. We have overlooked and become accustomed to crime. We have neglected to support the law and those who enforce it. We have neglected to teach our children and have neglected to support and encourage those who teach them. As a society, we have too often installed ungodly and self-serving leaders who turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice. Too many leaders are more interested in supporting own their parties rather than supporting what is right and true. 

And Father, even when we have tried to uphold justice, we have still been negligent in other ways. If we believe that Christ is Lord, that his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and that he rules with a righteous scepter – if we truly believe these things, why have we failed to spread the gospel to others? Why have we failed to get involved in the lives of our neighbors and friends and communities? Why have we retreated in safety rather than engaging the world around us?

Loving God, we ask that you comfort the grieving and hurting. Be with those who were injured. Heal their bodies, renew their spirits, and help them work through their emotions. Be with the families of the victims. Please, O Father, pour out your love, comfort, and hope into their hearts. Be with us as a community. Help us feel a sense of accountability to one another. Help us demonstrate the love of Christ in all that we do. Help us treat everyone we meet with dignity, love, respect, and kindness. Help us purge suspicion from our hearts and learn to build trust and goodwill with our neighbors. By all means, help us act with wisdom and caution, help us look out for one another, and help each of us work toward a stronger community. 

Righteous God, we ask that you step into this community in a powerful and immediate way. We ask you to put a stop to the madness that has permeated our community. We ask that you enable the police and city officials to effectively do their jobs. We ask that you impose upon the criminals, perpetrators, and their enablers your unmistakable justice. 

We ask you to help each citizen to be more aware of his or her role in deterring evil and restoring a sense of community. Help each of us examine our own hearts for any vestiges of moral indifference, prejudice, and hatred. Help us purge them by the power of your Word and your love. Help parents teach and support their children, to model loving, godly, and righteous living. Help children and young adults think before they act. Help them learn self-control. Help them ask for help when they need it. Help churches preach the gospel without compromise. Help them become spiritual clinics for those who struggle with sin, animosity, despair, and loneliness.

Finally, O God, we praise you for who and what you are. You are the true and living God, the only God. You are eternal, all-seeing, all-knowing, and ever present. You are holy, righteous, and just, and you are also loving, merciful, and gracious. You defend the widow and orphan, the stranger and outcast. You are our creator, sustainer, defender, and redeemer.

We thank you for your tender mercies, your daily provisions, and your constant sustenance. Despite the dark days that surround us, you provide us each day with blessings and reasons for joy and hope. Keep us humble and teach us to walk in your ways. Help set our minds on eternal, spiritual, and good things. Help us live quiet, godly, and dignified lives.

For to you, O God, belongs all power and dominion, all love and mercy, all wisdom and authority, before all time, now and forever more. 


Pray Without Ceasing

How often should we pray?

The apostle Paul’s answer was, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18). The phrase “without ceasing” refers to a settled habit or an unvarying practice or a regular routine.

But even in the best of circumstances, that can be a challenge. One woman said, “…since I started managing a job, three young children, and a husband who works evenings, if anything my prayer life had gone downhill. I pray for a few moments in the morning; I pray when I first get to my desk at the office for a few minutes as I wait for the electric kettle to boil water for tea; I pray in snatches while driving or stirring supper on the stove or waiting for programs to load on the computer; and sometimes on a good day, I pray for a few brief moments before I crawl into bed.” (Debra Rienstra, in Philip Yancy, Prayer, 167)

Sound familiar?

It would be helpful to remember that the Bible doesn’t give a set pattern for prayer.

  • The psalmist said, “Seven times a day I praise you” (Psalm 119.164).
  • Daniel prayed three times daily in the direction of Jerusalem (Daniel 6.10).
  • Nehemiah prayed silently and briefly as he made a request of the king (Nehemiah 2.4).
  • Jesus resorted to prayer often (Luke 5.16), sometimes even all night (Luke 6.12).
  • At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed a fervent, but apparently short prayer, interrupted by the snores of his companions and the noise of the betrayer (Matthew 26.36-47).

But there’s still the issue of praying without ceasing. What does that mean?

First, it means we must be willing to pray. Some think that God won’t hear them, orthat their issues are too trivial, or that they’ll figure it out on their own. But Peter saidwe’re to cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5.7).

Second, it means we believe that prayer works. Some think that prayer doesn’t work,or it doesn’t matter, or it just doesn’t change anything. But James said, “the effective,fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5.16b).

Third, it means that we look for and create opportunities to pray. We seize everyopportunity, whether short or long, noisy or quiet, focused or distracted. We pray between tasks. We pray in transit. We pray in the moment. We pray in our heads. We pray as soon we see the Facebook request. We pray at our desks, in our cars, on the couch, in the shower, in bed. We pray while we’re dressing, while we’re gardening, while we’re cooking, while we’re walking, and while we’re relaxing.

In other words, we pray without ceasing.

Run With Horses

Horses are amazing creatures. No other animal so easily combines beauty and spirit, strength and speed. Horses can run as fast as 55 m.p.h. for a few seconds. In 1973, Secretariat ran the fastest Kentucky Derby ever, averaging over 37 m.p.h. What would it be like to run with horses?

In Jeremiah 12.5, the Lord asked the prophet, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of Jordan?” 

Jeremiah was complaining to the Lord about his troubles. He had just learned in the previous chapter that the people in his hometown of Anathoth – even some of this own family members – wanted him dead. So, he complained to the Lord (12.1-4). He complained that the unrighteous were prospering (12.1). He asked that the Lord punish the wicked (12.3), including those in his own family. He wondered how much more the country could endure (12.4). 

The Lord’s answer was a mild rebuke. The imagery was drawn from the military. He tells Jeremiah that if running with foot soldiers was tiresome, then what would he do if he had to run with cavalry horses? If marching on a wide, level plain was hard, what would happen when he had to traipse through a jungle? In other words, “Jeremiah, if you think your life has been hard up to this point, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” 

Indeed, Jeremiah lived to see the decline and demise of not only the nation of Judah, but also his beloved city Jerusalem. He was never permitted to marry; his own family rejected him; he had few friends and many, many enemies. Near the end of his life, he was taken against his will from Jerusalem to Egypt. As far as we know, he died in Egypt, a place he didn’t want to be.

Like Jeremiah, all of us have disappointments, hardships, and frustrations in life. Like Jeremiah, we’re sometimes tempted to just quit. Like Jeremiah, we complain to the Lord about how bad we have it. And as with Jeremiah, the Lord patiently hears our complaints, rebukes us for our impatience, and tells us to keep going, to keep trying.

But implicit in the Lord’s rebuke of Jeremiah was a glimmer of hope. Jeremiah faded early but finished strong. All because the Lord gave him a glimpse of what could be: “Jeremiah, you CAN run with horses. Quit worrying, quit complaining, and start trusting me.” 

What a thrilling thought – that we can run with horses as we serve the Lord! So, for today, get ready to run with the horses!

(This was inspired by the book Run With the Horses, by the late Eugene Peterson.)

Honest to God

Are you honest to God?

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Honest to God!” It’s like saying, “I swear to God.” It’s an oath. An oath is a solemn promise that calls God as a witness. Even though people abuse oaths, calling God to witness the truthfulness of something is a valid biblical concept, and we see examples in the Bible.

In this post, I don’t want to talk about oaths, but rather about truthfulness. Specifically, I want to talk about truthfulness with God when we pray to him. Are we honest to God when we pray?

For many people, prayer is just polite religious chitchat, the kind of small talk you have with a total stranger. We don’t reveal anything deep or personal or sensitive. We’re afraid God will think less of us, or he’ll be shocked or angry, or he’ll terminate our relationship because of something we said.

However, some prayers in the Bible aren’t polite. And they were spoken by God’s most faithful people:

  • Moses’ complaints about Israel in the wilderness – Exodus 17.4; Numbers 11.10-15
  • Elijah’s complaint about being the only faithful Israelite left – 1 Kings 19.1-18
  • Job’s bitter complaints about his suffering – Job 3
  • David’s prayers for vengeance against his enemies – e.g., Psalm 58.6-11
  • Jeremiah’s complaints to God about his ministry – Jeremiah 4.10; 15.10; 20.7, 14-18

Why could these men pray in this way? Because they had an intimate relationship with God!

Intense prayer is like intense conversation: it’s the outgrowth of intimacy. You don’t talk like this to a stranger – you only talk like this to a friend, to someone whom you know and trust, and who knows you. That’s God! He knows our weaknesses but loves us anyway – “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103.13-14).

Grace is God’s side of things; honesty, truthfulness, and integrity are our responsibility:

  • Are you angry (toward others or toward God)? TELL HIM!
  • Are your worried? TELL HIM! (See 1 Peter 5.6-7)
  • Are you bitter and struggling with hatred? TELL HIM!
  • Are you caught in greed or gossip or lust or pride? TELL HIM!

AND ask for his help. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139.23-24).

Today and every day, be honest to God.

He Will Move Heaven & Earth

Psalm 18.6-17 says:

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. 
Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub and flew;
And He sped upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.
Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

The Bible teaches us that God hears and answers the prayers of his people. But it says relatively little about HOW God answers our prayers. It says little about how he arranges the circumstances and forces of our lives to secure his glory, to accomplish his purposes, and to bless his people. For the most part, the Bible affirms that these things are true, but offers little by way of explanation.

The text quoted above is an interesting exception. Psalm 18 is a prayer of thanksgiving by David. The inscription of the psalm indicates that David composed it after he was freed from King Saul’s menace, and after God had delivered him from his enemies, apparently during the early years of his reign. For the most part, the psalm celebrates a military victory for David by the hand of God. We don’t know any details from the psalm, but the militaristic language and the inscription support this.

Verses 7-15 comprise a powerful affirmation about how God answered David’s prayer. David says that he cried to the LORD for help (v 6), and the LORD answered from heaven. Verses 16-17 indicate that the prayer was answered. Sandwiched between these two prayer references is the mighty rhetoric of v 7-15. 

How did God answer David? In highly metaphoric language, the LORD shook heaven and earth to answer David’s prayers. He shook the earth (v 7); he sent fire and smoke (v 8); he flew down from heaven in clouds and wind (v 9f); he used the darkness (v 11); he thundered from heaven (v 13); he sent bolts of lightening (v 14); he flooded the earth (v 15). 

Many times in biblical history God used the forces of nature to accomplish his purposes. The LORD used a massive flood to destroy the sinful world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8). He used fire and brimstone to destroy ungodly Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). God manipulated nature to destroy the Egyptian army and secure deliverance for Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15). He caused the sun to stop midday to help Joshua and Israel secure a victory over the Amorite alliance (Joshua 10). He used flash flooding to neutralize the superior chariot forces of the Canaanites when they fought Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5). Whether this is the case with David’s prayer and deliverance, we do not know, but the point remains: God is willing to move heaven and earth to answer prayer for his people.

Psalm 18 is not the only text to suggest this. The book of Revelation presents the prayers of saints as offerings that are perpetually before the throne of God, attended to by heavenly hosts (5.8; 6.9ff; 7.3, 9ff). These are pleas for vindication by those who have been persecuted for their faith. But these prayers, which ascend to the very throne room of God, are answered in dramatic fashion by returning them to earth in the form of lightning judgments. Beginning in 8.3ff, the prayers of the saints are mixed with the very judgments used against their persecutors. 

We may not always be able to see the effects of our prayers. We may not always know if they have been answered. But we can have no doubt about God’s concerns for his people. We can have no doubt that our creator can and does move heaven and earth to answer us. And none can stand against his judgments — rulers, governments, armies, schools, philosophies, markets, sciences — all are impotent against his wrath. 

For today, live with the assurance that God will move heaven and earth for his saints. He will summon his vast forces and resources for you and me.