Begin today by reading Psalm 60.
“Lord, teach us to pray.” This is the request from the disciples to Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Luke. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1, ESV). The title of Psalm 60 tells us that the Psalm was written “For Instruction” or teaching. I want to give credit to the editors of the ESV Study Bible (Crossway Publishers) and The NIV Zondervan Study Bible for highlighting this idea of Psalm 60 teaching the people of Israel how to pray for the battles of the nation. Once on this track, it appeared to me that we can create an “ABC’s of Prayer” guide to better instruct us in our prayers. Referring once again to the Gospel of Luke, we note that it records a briefer version of the model prayer of Jesus that we identify as “The Lord’s Prayer.” “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation’” (Luke 11: 2-4, ESV). From this prayer of Jesus, I offer an “ABC” guide for our prayers of Alignment; Blessing; and Covenant. Alignment is asking for God’s name to be honored and revered as holy while we also desire for His Kingdom to be in place in our world and in our life. Blessing is remembering God’s promises to provide our needs as we ask for our daily bread and for forgiveness of sins. Covenant is agreeing that we need God to lead us not into temptation as He provides us both direction and protection.
Returning to Psalm 60, I also see it as a guide to teach and encourage us toward effective prayer. David first asks for Alignment. “That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!” (vs. 5, ESV). This Psalm is challenging for us because David confesses that God is angry with the nation of Israel and their battles were lost because God did not give them victory. Have you found yourself praying more during the Covid-19 pandemic? Have your heard others say they are praying more? It is fascinating that when our plans are disrupted, we turn to the Lord and pray more often and more earnestly. I know I must tread carefully as some may think we equate the pandemic with God’s anger. I do not think that at all. Rather, as a sports team reviews and evaluates their game plan and their readiness after a loss, so when our plans are interrupted and we are staggering from the loss, we return to God to ask what happened and for His help. It results, if we are humble, in aligning our will with the will of God. This is a very positive outcome in a time of difficulty, and I believe God uses it to bring good results out of bad situations.
This is what we learn from the Book of James instructing us: “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4, 15, ESV). Second, David instructs that prayer should be prayed according to the Blessing or promises of God. “God has spoken in his holiness” (vs. 6, ESV). God gave the Promised Land to the nation of Israel. These various cities and regions in this Psalm were the specific places that God led the nation to conquer as His gift to them and fulfillment of His Promises. We are not fighting for geography today, but the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is commissioned to be the witnesses of Jesus. He promised to empower us by the Holy Spirit of God to accomplish this battle. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). As we learn the Word of God and the promises of God, I believe that our Heavenly Father is pleased when we repeat and claim His promises in our prayers. He also delights in our repetition of His instructions along with a request for Him to help us do what He instructs. Third, David prays concerning the Covenant or agreement with God that He must do what only He can do. If we try to do what God desires and instructs in our own strength, we will ultimately fail. “Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!” (vs. 11, ESV).
Our prayers must conclude that God is in charge and that we must covenant and agree to follow Him as He leads. “With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes” (vs. 12, ESV). Yes, Lord, get our attention as often as needed so that we do not take You for granted or try to do in our own strength what only You can do. Teach us to pray so that we are Aligned, Blessed, and in Covenant with You! “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3: 20-21, ESV).