Whisper a Prayer

Blind Faith (No. 36, 2014)
Weekly Devotional for September 25, 2014
Whisper a Prayer

The world today is a treacherous place. Threats abound, from
astonishingly zealous terrorism, to virulent disease lacking known remedies,
to eruptions of violence between families and coworkers, to many more
personal challenges. Despair and paralyzing stagnation are constant
temptations in the face of such unrelenting barrages of natural, cultural,
and personal disaster. In our better moments, most of us hope – and pray -
for a better way to live.

Conditions scarcely could have been worse in David’s shattered
nation. Scandalous betrayal by David’s trusted friends led to his capture by
Israel’s persistent opponents, the Philistines. David was a captive;
lawlessness gripped his beloved and newly prosperous Jerusalem. The nation
he had brought to unprecedented power and prosperity saw hopes of peace and
stability ebbing away in a divisive struggle pitting father against son,
brother against brother. Many Old Testament scholars set Psalm 55 in this
dire context. Like the apostle Paul and his companions in the jail at
Philippi, David turned to singing to God for reassurance of God’s faithful
provision. David’s song offers a reliable prescription for surviving
perilous times.

David admits that singing to God was not his natural response to
the dangers he encountered. Like most of us he desperately longed for a safe
haven, a place to escape the threatening situations in his family, his
military command, and the nation. He wrote: “Fear and trembling have beset
me; horror has overwhelmed me. {6} I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a
dove! I would fly away and be at rest– {7} I would flee far away and stay
in the desert; {8} I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the
tempest and storm.’” (Psalm 55:5-8 NIV) David knew, however, that flight was
not an option, that his present troubles and the betrayals that enflamed
them would follow him. (See Psalm 55:11-13) His assessment of the situation
sounds prescient of our world today: “Destruction is everywhere. Oppression
and fraud never leave the streets.” (Psalm 55:12 GWT)

But David mustered the faith to sing to God, even when his world
seemed to be falling apart. Psalm 5 appears closely related to Psalm 55 in
the circumstances David faced and his response to them. He indicates that a
key strategy for expressing his faith in God is to call out to God for a
preemptive strike of God’s grace to begin each day: “Give ear to my words, O
LORD, consider my sighing. {2} Listen to my cry for help, my King and my
God, for to you I pray. {3} In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in
the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm
5:1-3 NIV) His daily prayers were not just pious, hands-folded-eyes-closed
quiet soliloquies to God, though. They were filled with honest emotion about
the dangers crashing upon him. The Hebrew word translated sigh (5:1) refers
to a murmur, or soulful complaint, and the Hebrew word translated cry (5:2)
denotes a thunderous yell. David entrusted his most genuine expression of
his state of being to God, first thing in the morning, and eagerly and
expectantly watched and listened for God’s just and graceful response
through the day.

In order to keep his faith through the days of intense
challenge, David did not confine his earnest prayers to a plaintive morning
exercise. He cultivated his faith by continuing awareness of God as the days
wore on: “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. {17} Evening, morning
and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. {18} He ransoms me
unharmed from the battle waged against me.” (Psalm 55:16-18a NIV) David
testifies that keeping in prayer contact with God evening, morning, and noon
allowed him to recognize God’s care as God provided it. David concluded his
song by recommending his experience to others: “Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22a NIV)

No matter whether the situations we face cause us to sigh or
cry, we can weather today’s storms by faithfully and consistently expressing
our real emotions and needs to God. Our job is not to remind God that we are
still in need and that we are still waiting, but repeating our sighs and
cries to God reminds us to be attentive to the answers and provisions he
provides to sustain us.

God always is already at work caring for us, his children. The prophet,
Isaiah, delivered God’s promise that he is way ahead of us as we pray: “I
will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking
to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (Isaiah
65:24 NLT) Even when circumstances are so overwhelming that we have trouble
identifying and asking God for what we really need, God helps us frame our
prayers. God loves us so intimately, Paul explains, that: “Also, the Spirit
helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the
Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings
that words cannot explain. {27} God can see what is in people’s hearts. And
he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God
for his people in the way God wants.” (Romans 8:26-27 NCV) The “beloved
disciple,” John, who had firsthand experience conversing with Jesus on an
intense level, assures us that such Holy Spirit directed prayers will be met
with God’s faithful provision: “We are confident that God listens to us if
we ask for anything that has his approval. {15} We know that he listens to
our requests. So we know that we already have what we ask him for.” (1 John
5:14-15 GWT) Whatever betrayal, fraud, destruction, or danger we might face,
God is always sustaining us by his grace. Keeping in touch with God -
praying morning, noon, and evening – helps us to recognize God’s care
throughout the day.

We can respond to our perilous times by singing to God, too.
Memorizing the verses from Psalms 5 and 55 would be a good start. Perhaps we
already know a song that is not as profound as scripture but offers a
memorable summary of God’s faithfulness and our call to prayer. I can’t
remember how long ago I learned the simple, so-called children’s chorus,
“Whisper a Prayer,” but its truth is attested for all ages, in all
situations:

Whisper a prayer in the morning, Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening, ’twill keep your heart in tune.

God answers prayer in the morning, God answers prayer at noon.
God answers prayer in the evening To keep your heart in tune.
(Author and composer unknown)

I hope you know the little chorus. I especially hope that you
won’t be able to get it out of your mind for several days! And, more than
that, I hope that you will do as the chorus says, so that you will recognize
God’s grace that sustains you throughout each day’s challenges. And may it
be so, that people the world over will connect faithfully with God through
prayer – and thus find their (our) lives sustained and directed by God’s
grace.

- J. Edward Culpepper