Asking God (Week Two) – Part 2

In our last post, we walked through Psalm 119:33-35 with the goal of understanding petitionary prayer. There’s more to learn, and today we will dive into verses 36-39.

Verse 36

“Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:36‬ ‭NASB‬‬

As I shared last week, this verse has everything to do with contentment, as in being content in God’s provision (His testimonies) rather than dishonest gain (what we might try to make for ourselves). In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul wrote about being content in all things:

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13

What’s the context of this over-quoted verse from Philippians? Contentment, right? There is no way in which this means I can literally do anything and everything because Christ strengthens me. That’s just nonsense. Instead, Paul believed that he could be content (do all things poverty or riches) through Christ who gave him strength. 

There is no way in which Philippians 4:13 means we can literally do anything and everything because Christ strengthens us. That’s just nonsense. Click To Tweet

So, is it God’s will to give us strength to obey His commands? To incline our hearts to His testimonies? I’m going to go with an emphatic yes here! Look at what Peter says:

“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” – 2 Peter‬ ‭1:3-4‬

This is again a B pattern prayer (for more on “A” and “B” pattern prayer, read or watch our first series on petitionary prayer). We clearly have evidence in support of this viewpoint. God has already granted us everything we need in order that we may become partakers of his divine nature. It’s there, he’s done it, the hand of divine help has been offered. Now, whether we reach out and take that hand to become partakers is up to us.

Verses 37 & 38

“Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:37-38‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Both of these verses look like B pattern prayers, and here’s why. First, God’s desire is for the revival of all (2 Peter 3:9 “God wants that none should perish”). So it only follows that if revival is God’s will, then turning our eyes from the vanity that destroys us is also His will (that’s His method). Second, we know that revival is found solely in God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9 “…so are my ways higher than your ways”). Third, vanity is always understood as meaninglessness in the Scripture. Therefore God wanting our eyes on things that are good, pure, and holy is clearly His will. God wants our eyes on Him and His Kingdom. (Ecclesiastes 2:1, 11, 15, 21; 4:4; 5:10; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8

It appears the Apostle Peter would’ve seen this as a B pattern prayer as well. Turning us from vanity and establishing us are always the desire of God’s heart.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, WILL HIMSELF perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” – ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10‬

Verse 39

“Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:39‬ ‭NASB‬

In the last sermon series, I made a point about the reproach of men, specifically that the counsel of God is the remedy to the supposed counsel of men. This is why David contrasts reproach in verse 39 with the good ordinances of God. And we can prove this out even further. But does this mean that reproach will not come? Does it mean that it will always be turned away?

“May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O LORD, Your salvation according to Your word; So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.” – Psalms‬ ‭119:41-42‬

The lovingkindness, the salvation of God (which is according to His word) is the answer to the reproach of men. But that reproach still happens. (1 Peter 3:15)

“For my life is spent with sorrow And my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, And my body has wasted away. Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, Especially to my neighbors, And an object of dread to my acquaintances; Those who see me in the street flee from me.” – Psalms‬ ‭31:10-11

Sometimes the reproach we face is of our own making like it was with David here. So what’s my point?

I believe that Psalm 119:39 is actually an A pattern prayer. I believe the removal of reproach is like the “guarantee” of healing. Is it the ultimate plan? Of course. Is it always the temporal plan? Not according to the evidence. For David to ask God to turn away his reproach every time would actually be for David not to understand the good effects of reproach. And although a touchy subject the same is true for our health.

The removal of reproach from our lives is like the “guarantee” of healing. Is it the ultimate plan? Of course. Is it always God's temporal plan? Not according to the evidence. #healing Click To Tweet

Consider how the story of David and Bathsheba touches on both healing and reproach. When confronted by Nathan the prophet, David learned that he and Bathsheba would lose the baby boy that had been born from their affair. Can you imagine how the reproach of his sin weighed him down as he watched his son’s health deteriorate, as he heard people whisper behind his back. He prayed and fasted for seven days while his son worsened, but God said no. The boy died and the parents grieved—for their son and their sin.

And no, this is not just an Old Covenant idea. We see this with Timothy (and his frequent ailments) and Paul (with persecution) as well as others in the New Testament.

The good effects of reproach include: maturity, humility, repentance, etc. Paul’s thorn in the flesh, which was the reproach of men (or persecution). David’s later encounter with Shimei. Jesus’s own promise that in this life, we will have trouble. These are all parallels here. I believe the faith we should maintain in this case, as an “A” pattern prayer, is a faith in the giver. Whether or not God turns away the reproach of men, we can still rest in the fact that He is good and that His grace is sufficient for us. That He is teaching us something.

The good effects of reproach and trial in our lives include: maturity, humility, repentance. Click To Tweet

“Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:8-9‬

When Paul mentions weakness, he is not referring to moral weakness as in sin. Instead, he is referring to physical weakness at the hands of his persecutors. It is also true that when Paul speaks of grace he is not always referring to favor over and against sin. Paul prayed just as David did for his reproach to be turned away but it was not to be. In place of this, God told Paul that His grace was sufficient. After all, God Himself told Ananias that Paul would suffer greatly for the name of Jesus (Acts 9:16) all the while planning to show him favor.

Let’s Talk

The idea of reproach, like healing, not always being God’s temporal plan is challenging. I would love to hear your thoughts. Healing and persecution are a bit tricky and yet I’ve presented several valid reasons for the pattern A view point. So if you want to engage in this discussion please comment below or send me an email at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com.

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