Prayer and psalm 74
by Joseph Jagde
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Central to this psalm is the seeking and acknowledgment of God's intervenition in specific ways and instances.
Verses 12 thru 17 group as an acknowledgment of what God has already done and that God is the source point, first on this list is verse 12 where it says, " But you oh God, are my king from old, you bring salvation upon the earth."
Here it is probable the psalmist is more talking about ultimate salvation. But it is also saying you bring salvation to the earth, or in the King James version in the midst of the earth so it might be an idea to refer to the ways in which God saves which would included ultimate salvation but also the way He saves individuals in various ways on the earth as a matter of intervention. Asking God to parcel out some of that salvation power now in a particular area of concern is a legitimate prayer request. You could double up on the adjectives of your prayer request, asking God for his saving help, his saving guidance, his saving grace, his saving healing as all these interventions along these lines will not only give us help, guidance, grace and healing but will also save us from troubles in various ways. So God might not only be healing you of your back pain but is also legitimately saving you from back pain that you would otherwise have had without the intervention. Really, any answered prayer would also have the effect of saving us at the least in small ways. You can then bring this idea across the grid of your thinking and requests on prayer of God's saving grace here and now by just adding the additional adjective of save to any request you might have and also ponder in your meditations what difficulties God might have saved you from already. You can imagine kind of a smooth or soothing path of the saving help of God being present. Kind of moving from rough seas to not so rough seas.
Verse 15 says," It was you who opened up the springs and streams, and dried up the ever flowing rivers." You can picture a smoothness either way here as per God's actions, both in opening the streams and or drying up the river. In the Red Sea parting, he did both, opening the sea and then closing it. Generally besides referring to events of nature, it is showing how God does open the way, or close the way, depending.
The overall tone of this psalm has a degree of debate with God within the requests for God's action.
Verse 10 thru 11 says," How long will the enemy mock you, O God, will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand, take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them." At the same time, this context of this particular psalm is that the psalmist feels that the enemies have overrun him and God's sanctuary, and the matters of concern are very pressing and he is asking God to pivot in his direction. The second image that is presented is from verse 3 where it says," Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
Within this psalm we have two images of asking God to move physically, which is really just imagery of a turn, one to take some steps and the other to bring him arm outward. The general theme is again asking for God's intervention and what is going to happen does hinge on whether God will take those steps or brings his hand forward and make that wanted turn towards an intervention.
Verses 16 and 17 say," The day is yours, and yours also is the night, you established the sun and the moon, it was you who set the boundaries of the earth, you make both summer and winter."
There is a duality of both summer and winter and multiplicity in God's actions and what he has established. Like tracking the weather, there are any number of things to track as far as God's actions. Relating this to prayer is possibly asking God for assistance to be more open to what He might be doing as far as interventions and prayer around that. This requires sensitivity and discernment but maybe also asking for God's help as to what to watch for. Focused and persistent prayer and the intuitive feel to that might be amended a bit with more openness as to what to pray for and how to pray for it and adjustments towards further openness and a broadening of the view where needed and a more honed in and specific view where needed. Something that specifies can also open up more broadly as well and it is important not to miss the specifics. If I miss the one train to the sights, then more broadly I am not going to see the sights.
There is a lot to watch for and this takes us to signs. In this particular psalm, it is talking about signs at two different points. For the Israelites, God wasn't an abstraction as they had seen such things as the Red Sea parting. So signs were expected. Verse 9 says," We are given no miraculous signs, no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be."
Then there is verse 4 which says," Your foes roared in the place where you met us, they set up your standards as signs."
Here we have the bad guys giving signs to, so not every sign out there has a Godly origin. Verses 12 thru 17 in this psalm, continually refer to God as the source point, in his revelations of nature and have the refrain, " It was you." which is identifying God as the source. But once you get away from the premise that God is the source point, then great signs and arguments can be constructed, from an ungodly platform starting from a false ungodly premise and working the arguments towards that false premise. There have been magnificent legal arguments and writings constructed in argument in favor of heinous propositions. Even as per signs today, an advertisement can be beautifully constructed for an outright evil message, or a song nicely sung for terrible causes. The means, skills, and logical arguments are their for the ungodly and they can do a good job of it. But generally they have strayed from considering God as the source point as described here in this psalm. So in looking for signs, just like they say don't believe or put total credence into everything that's in print, be careful of the signs even today of the ungodly. Not everything your eyes might see that's out there is from God.
But in either case, lack of signs from God, or many signs from the bad guys, it wouldn't have been so bothersome if signs really didn't mean much. But they did mean a lot, and a sign wasn't just a sign for a signs sake but something with power, meaning, effect and intervention behind it. So ultimately, the lack of signs was partial to a lack of hoped for intervention from God and the bad signs were back by the increased presence of the enemies.
Verse 20 says," Have regard for your covenant, for haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land." The darkness wasn't total, but there were dark places in the land, with" haunts of violence." And in this day and age, signs, postings, advertisements, writings and any form of communication can come from that side and those places and it is something to beware of and be cautious about.
Then we may have already gotten an answer from God and we go on looking for more signs or another answer. If I am rushing down the highway, I might miss a sign. But also, if there are a million signs on the side of the highway, I might also miss the one sign. I might have already gotten an answer from God, versed for example in one sentence. Instead of looking for more aspects of the answer, focus back on the original answer. The answer might be a word of knowledge, focused in on one sentence. I might have wanted a fully written narrative. Refer back to that answer and go deeply into the sign and what the answer is, what the answer feels like and just how much you can actually rely on it without looking for more or elsewhere.
In Luke Chapter 22, verse 42, Jesus says," Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but your will be done." Even Jesus, was starting to move past the answer and sign.
For us, it's a natural human tendency to go past signs, to get into a mode, are you sure this is the answer. Focus in on the answer and see what emanates from the focus. Then something we are at the center of creating rings more true to us. I conjured up this emotion, so it feels true. I created this argument, so it must be a good one, even the right one. But God is the source and the source of the signs that we want to find and follow. The miraculous signs mentioned in this psalm, are the clear interventions of God that his people can and should seek.
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