“Calling on God” 07/09/17
Have you ever had to call tech support, or any large company, and been faced with a list of numbered choices? You know what I mean. If you know your party’s extension press one, for a list of representatives press 2, and so on. Sometimes you go through several layers of menus and then get put on hold.
Can you imagine if getting through to God was like that? For confessions press 1, for prayer requests press 2, for thanksgiving press 3, etc.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Pope are in a meeting in Rome. The Rabbi notices an unusually fancy phone on a side table in the Pope’s private chambers. “What is that phone for?” he asks the pontiff. “It’s my direct line to the Lord!” The Rabbi is sceptical, and the Pope notices. The Holy Father insists that the Rabbi try’s it out, and, indeed, he is connected to the Lord. The Rabbi holds a lengthy discussion with Him. After hanging up the Rabbi says. “Thank you very much. This is great! But listen, I want to pay for my phone charges.” The Pope, of course refuses, but the Rabbi is steadfast and finally, the pontiff gives in. He checks the counter on the phone and says: “All right! The charges were 100,000 Lira.” The Chief Rabbi gladly hands over a packet of bills. A few months later, the Pope is in Jerusalem on an official visit. In the Chief Rabbi’s chambers he sees a phone identical to his and learns it also is a direct line to the Lord. The Pope remembers he has an urgent matter that requires divine consultation and asks if he can use the Rabbi’s phone. The Rabbi gladly agrees, hands him the phone, and the Pope chats away. After hanging up, the Pope offers to pay for the phone charges. The Rabbi looks on the phone counter and says: “1 Shekel 50!” The Pope looks surprised: “Why so cheap!?!” The Rabbi smiles: “Local call.”
Fortunately God doesn’t work this way. It’s always a local call and there are no charges, never a busy signal, never put on hold. There are many ways to pray, many types of prayer. What matters is that we do pray and that we are sincere in our prayer.
We’ve seen David as an example of how to deal with trials and suffering, and how to deal with sin. Today we look at how David maintained his relationship with God through all the ups and downs of his life. No matter what was happening, he called on God.
Psalm 86:1–7 Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.
David begins by calling on God to hear – asking for God to hear favorably, to act on David’s behalf
David knows that he has a relationship with God – “You are my God”
He has this relationship because God reached out
He recognizes that the relationship is one of servant and Lord
Calls himself God’s servant – humility
Later in the psalm he asks God to teach him His way
Acknowledged his need – poor and needy
Sometimes we are reluctant to admit that we need help
Psalm 72:12–13 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.
Devoted to God
David didn’t call on God only when he needed help. He is able to go to God in times of need because he has nurtured a vital, living, daily relationship. Praying was not a last resort but his first response.
Trusts in God
Had experienced God’s faithfulness
Prays continually – not to twist God’s arm but show David’s trust. Jesus taught about persevering in prayer
Assured that God will answer
But God did not always answer in the way that David wanted.
2 Samuel 12:19–20 David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
2 Samuel 12:21–22 His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’
Notice that even after losing his son, David worshipped
He lifts up his soul – not just saying words but brings all his being. This is a prayer from David’s heart.
Hear & answer – David calls on God to act in his favor
Guard & Save – Later in the psalm David says that people are attacking him and seeking his life. If David regards himself as God’s servant, then God is his Lord, and it is the Lord’s responsibility to provide for and protect his servant. David is reminding God of that.
Have mercy on
David does not appeal to God based on his own worthiness. He knows he does not deserve for God to help him. Instead he appeals to God’s mercy
God’s deliverance would bring David joy.
Forgiving – God’s grace
Good – God’s nature, both moral and in disposition, kind
Abounding in love – faithfulness to His promises
We do not know the circumstances that elicited this prayer, and I think that is a good thing. Otherwise we might limit our calling on God to these circumstances. What we have here is an example of someone in need who casts himself upon God and trusts in God’s mercy.
David draws heavily on the thought and language of other writings of the Bible, and especially other psalms. He is steeped in its story, familiar with the history of God’s works. Then he makes that story his own.
If we want to have the same assurance when we call on God it is necessary to have the same foundation of a good relationship. It’s too late to learn to swim when the water gets over our head. Let us not think of prayer as what we do when everything else fails, but as the first place we go, and where we continue every day.
Then let us call on God sincerely, not just saying the words but freely pouring out our heart.
Finally, let us trust, having confidence that God will answer in the way that is best and at the time which is right.
Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.