I cry out with my whole heart;
Hear me, O LORD!
I will keep Your statutes.
I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
I rise before the dawning of
the morning, And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
My eyes are awake through
the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
Hear my voice according to
O LORD, revive me according
to Your justice.
They draw near who follow
They are far from Your law.
You are near, O LORD,
And all Your commandments are truth.
Concerning Your testimonies,
I have known of old that You have founded them forever.
I am convinced that one of the most challenging disciplines of the Christian life is prayer. For me, the distractions of everyday life constantly threaten to interfere with my prayers and reduce my ministry in the word to a hollow exercise which produces light without heat. The testimony of Scripture, especially of this stanza of Psalm 119, reveals several important principles of successful prayer. As I meditate on them, I am encouraged to persevere in prayer with a steadfast heart, abiding in the Lord, even as his Spirit abides in me, and I am reminded that God is abundant in mercy toward his children, in spite of their weakness and inconsistency.
The first principle in this passage is that prayer must be made with all your heart, and coupled with wholehearted obedience to God’s word. As we devote ourselves completely to the Lord and our hearts are knit with him, we will pray according to his will and not our own. This is why James said that we often do not receive what we pray for, “because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). And so we must have a sincere commitment to obedience coupled with prayer, if we expect God to hear us.
Secondly, prayer is a reflection of our ongoing communion with God. For the Psalmist, this meant that prayer was more important than sleep, and Jesus clearly valued prayer the same way (Mark 1:35). In fact, continuing in prayer is a key component in Jesus’ teaching in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Of course, our communion with God involves more than prayer, it includes regularly meditating on his word. We must engage in communication with God, both by hearing him speak through his word and by speaking to him in prayer.
Finally, the results of prayer are not always what we would expect. The Psalmist took note that his enemies drew ever closer, even as he continued in prayer, but God was closer still. As we pray without ceasing, we may find that the threats surrounding us do not disappear, but the reality of God’s presence grows even greater. Fellowship with God does not remove our problems, but experiencing the nearness of God strengthens our faith in the sure foundation of his word, so that we may rest in him. So we continue to pray with great perseverance when we do not see the results we had hoped for, because we know that God is near, and his word never fails.