The Prayer Series – Praying for God's Presence, Provision and Protection

The Prayer Series
  • While you can pray through any part of the Bible, some books and chapters are much easier to pray through than others. Overall, the Book of Psalms is the best place in Scripture from which to pray Scripture. Almost every aspect of man’s relation to God is depicted in these poems: simple trust, the sense of sin, appeals to a higher power in time of trouble, and the conviction that the world is in the hands of a loving God. Join us in this 4 week series as we learn how to pray more God-centered prayers and enjoy more focus in prayer.
3. Praying for God's Presence, Provision and Protection (Psalm 63)
  • No matter where we are, our desire should be for God because only He is the source of everything.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • We are utterly dependent on God and must come to Him in prayer with that understanding. (Psalm 63:1-3)
  • As we pray to God in our dependence on Him, we must acknowledge His presence and allow it to issue in praise. (Psalm 63:4 & 5)
  • As we pray to God, we must recognize that His presence is the source of our provision and protection and rest in that. (Psalm 63:6-11)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Do you understand that you are utterly dependent on God and live that way?
  • When you pray, do you acknowledge His presence and practice it too?
  • Because God is God, He is indeed the source of our provision and protection. Do you recognize that, believe that and practice that?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What does it mean when David prays, “O God, you are my God?”
  • What does David mean when he writes that his soul thirsts for God?
  • What is the meaning of David's saying that he has beheld God's power and glory? What is the effect of that vision for God and who He is?
  • According to this Psalm, what is the source of praise to God?
  • How does David, in t his psalm, deal with his difficult circumstances?
  • How does one's soul “cling” to God?
  • How does God's right hand uphold a person?
  • How does David understand that God will make things right vis-a-vis his enemies?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Can you pray, “O God, you are my God?” Write your own statement of that reality in a few sentences and pray it.
  • Does your soul “thirst” for God? What does that look like in your life?
  • What would happen to you spiritually if you were not able to drink of God and His love?
  • Where do you find your greatest satisfaction? Assuming that is in God, how does God satisfy your deepest longings?
  • How can you daily acknowledge that all your resources are from God?
  • When you are in dire and difficult circumstances, what is your first reaction? Is it to go to God and express your dependence on Him and allow that dependence to issue in praise and joy?
  • Write your own paraphrase of this Psalm. Pray that paraphrase every day. Make it your highest priority to seek God with all your heart for His presence, provision and protection, and pray constantly to that end.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In Psalm 145, we saw that in prayer we are to approach the God of the universe in a personal way and express our adoration and praise for Him just for who He is and for what He has done. In Psalm 67, we saw that the God of our blessing and of salvation wants us to pray for people to come to know Him. In Psalm 63, the focus of these Notes, we will see that in prayer, we are to approach Him for His presence, and in our worship of Him, can pray with confidence for His provision and His protection.

Psalm 63 is a Psalm of David, the king of Israel. The superscript to the Psalm indicates that it was written when David was “in the wilderness of Judah.” The timing was most likely when David was king of Israel, ruling in Jerusalem, but had fled the city with his followers in the face of the rebellion of his son, Absalom, who was seeking to become king instead of David. (II Samuel 15; 17:21-29) In due course, David and his company stopped their running away when they arrived in the wilderness at a place called Mahanaim (II Samuel 17:24, 27). This wilderness area was not a desert, per se, but was a generally barren area particularly in the summer when the heat and sun had baked the earth and dried up the sparse vegetation, and the winds had blown away much of what was left. Water was scarce at best during the summer, which was when David ran from Absalom. Thus it was that when David and his followers arrived in Mahanaim, Scripture tells us they were “hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (II Samuel 17:29b) It was in these circumstances – a king on the run in charge of thousands of followers far from his royal throne with all its luxuries, wondering what to do about Absalom's rebellion and the kingdom of Israel - that David composed this Psalm.

As in the two Psalms we have already looked at, in Psalm 63, we see prayer which rightly starts with God and is wrapped around all He is. But this Psalm in particular, and its prayer, come from a point of extreme need and uncertainty given David's circumstances. Still, rather than beginning with requests, David begins with God and with a very personal approach to the One, indeed the only One, who could help. So he writes and prays this declaration of dependence and trust: “O God, you are my God.” The English translation does not do justice to the determination of these words. Literally they read, “Lord, you are my God.” In the Hebrew, the reading is “Yahweh, you are my El.” The Hebrew word “Yahweh” is God's name for Himself (Exodus 3:13 & 14) and it was considered by the Jews as so sacred that they would not even speak the name aloud. Hence, in this prayer, David addresses the all powerful, sovereign God who made Himself known by His name which represents all that He is. And in his prayer, David then reminds himself – and God – that the He is David's God (“my God”) in the sense of a personal relationship and an understanding of David's being under God's rule and reign, authority and power, by using the word “El” which is the familiar, common, even personal, name of God. “El” is the root word for God that Jesus used when He called out to His Father from the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46); it means might, strength or power, and is typically connected to other words that give substance and greater definition to who God is. For example, El Shaddai is the all sufficient God; El Elyon is the most high God; EmmanuEL is God with us. There are many other examples too numerous to cite here. (this is an example of the multi-faceted use of Hebrew words to convey the greatness and wonder of God. For example, Deuteronomy 10:7 reads “For the Lord (Jehovah) your God (Elohim) is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God (El).”) So David begins his prayer to the Almighty God with whom he has a personal relationship (Psalm 63:1), the God whom he has experienced (Psalm 63:2), and the God whose love he knows (Psalm 63:3); he begins with the knowledge and commitment that he is fully and wholly dependent on this very God.

And David does not merely address God; he “earnestly” seeks Him (Psalm 63:1), meaning that he eagerly searches after closeness with this God of his. Moreover, the word earnestly carries the sense that David does this seeking first before anything else, including the thought that he does so first thing in the morning (the root of the word is also translated “dawn”). The lesson in this verse of seeking God first thing in the morning was not lost on the early Christians as evidenced by the late fourth century AD preacher, John Chrysostom (“golden-mouthed”) of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, when he commented: “That it was decreed and ordained by the Primitive Fathers that no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm,” based on the phrase in verse 1 (sometimes translated “early will I seek you”), this psalm was sung on a daily basis during the morning liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

And thus as a guide for prayer, this Psalm teaches us to long for God's presence. And how much longing? Verse 1 goes on to tell us: our souls and body, literally our whole selves, should long for God as one would long for water in a barren desert. What an apt picture, especially as it comes from David who has run from Absalom into the dry Judean wilderness. It is reported that being in a desert and without water saps one's strength, and that the desire for water becomes all consuming. In fact, the lack of water will ultimately sap the very life out of a person, as water means life. Likewise, God is life to us, and we should seek after Him with an understanding of that truth and a craving for life. David then continues in his prayer, confirming the blessing of God's presence, and that his longing for that presence is based on his past experience of God; he has “seen” God in the sanctuary; he has beheld God's power and glory (Psalm 63:2), and therefore he can confidently seek Him again, knowing that in God is his own life, and indeed, that the reality of God's constant and faithful love is “better than life.” (Psalm 63:3a). This reality of God's constant presence leads David to praise (Psalm 63:3b), even as it should lead us to praise of God in prayer both in the present and in the future days of our lives (Psalm 63:4).

But David's prayer does not end with praise; it goes another step and anticipates satisfaction and deliverance from God on the basis of His name (cf. Psalm 72:17, 19 which is a Psalm of Solomon) even as he constantly remembers God and meditates on who He is, what He has done and what He will do (Psalm 63:5 & 6). Interestingly, David references meditating on God during the night watches (Psalm 63:6). Is this a reference to the night watches while he is in the wilderness? Or is this a reference to future times spent on night watches? It seems to be a “both/and” proposition; in his prayer, David knows that God will (in the future) satisfy him as richly as the beautiful odor of the fat offerings and the satisfaction of the best food as he thinks about his God while lying in bed or on a night watch (Psalm 63:5 & 6). The prayer is thus a prayer which anticipates God's provision in the deepest sense, namely “soul satisfaction” even as it hints at actual provision of needs. And yet again, this prayer is based on David's past experience, as God has been his help, and he has been sheltered in the wings(cf. Psalm 36:7; 57:1; 91:4) of God's provision and protection and lead him to sing for joy (Psalm 63:7). So, what does God's presence provide? God will provide peace and satisfaction (Psalm 63:6), help in circumstances (Psalm 63:7), and support as one leans on Him (Psalm 63:8). And this provision is based on God's sovereign power (His “right hand” which signifies power. Psalm 63:8).

To this point, David has prayed for God's presence and in that presence sought God's provision in the deepest sense of that word, that is, provision for the whole person. And this prayer is based on David's desire for and priority of closeness with God, his confidence in God's character and nature, and his understanding that he is utterly dependent on God for all he is and has. But David prays on, claiming God's protection and resting in His justice against those who are His enemies (Psalm 63:9 & 10). Old Testament Israelites did not have a worked out view of the after-life, and tended to view God's judgment against His enemies and against unrighteousness as being meted out by God in the present life as He maintained His name and the continued His blessings on His children that derived from His covenant promises to them. Thus, instead of seeking to get even on his own and through his strength, David literally rests in God's judgment against his enemies who would seek to undo God's will and purpose in David's being king. He knows that God is jealous for His name and will vindicate Himself, triumphing over unrighteousness. So in striking word pictures, David acknowledges that God's protection will issue in God's ultimate judgment, and that his (and God's) enemies will “go down into the depths of the earth” (Psalm 63:9), will be killed by the “power of the sword” (Psalm 63:10), and that their dead bodies will be food “for jackals,” scavengers of the wild (Psalm 63:10). Wow! These seem like harsh words to our 21st century ears. But as commentator Steven J. Cole writes, as David

considered his circumstances, he realized that God is just; God would judge fairly. The wicked would not prevail in the long run. Thus David could commit the situation to the Lord and act with the right perspective and balance: He would make it his business to rejoice in God, and let God deal with his enemies and vindicate him. He knew his calling (“king,” 63:11) and that God would not fail to accomplish all that concerned him.

Deliverance will come from God and on God's timetable; meanwhile God's servant, king David, will rejoice in God, his God, with all those who call on His name. In the end, all who utter lies will be stopped (Psalm 63:11). God is able to fight His battles, and He will win His battles, for He alone is God! David therefore prays to that end, and thus aligns his will with that of God as to the glory due His name.

In this prayer of Psalm 63 we have another marvelous template for our prayer life. We should pray as if our livers depend on God, because they surely do; we should pray out of a personal relationship with God for His presence, His provision and His protection. And in praying thus, we make our declaration of faith in God, our confirmation of trust in God and our statement of priority in God and His will, all of which lead to our praise to God, our joy in God and our satisfaction in God. Through praying thus, we will also find stability, strength, perspective and balance, all of which derive from utter dependence on Him. Do you know thirst for this God? Do you desire Him first thing every morning? Do you find that His faithful, steadfast love is better than life and is the source of blessing and praise? Pray Psalm 63 with David in all circumstances of your life, especially in trying circumstances. In so doing, you will find yourself in the shadow of His wings with His right hand upholding you (Psalm 63:7 & 8). So, pray Psalm 63, and pray it as if your life depends on it … because it does!