The Benefits of Prayer
The Benefits of Prayer (Psalm 25:1-22)
Read the whole psalm and see its five layers: prayer (vv. 1–7; meditation (vv. 8–10); prayer (v. 11); meditation (vv. 12–15); prayer (vv. 16–22). In our Christian lives there should be a balance between prayer (talking to God in God’s presence) and meditation (thinking about God in God’s presence).1
In the Hebrew language, this psalm forms an acrostic. The first Hebrew letters in the beginning, middle, and end of this prayer (Psalm 25:1, Psalm 25:11, Psalm 25:22) forms the Hebrew word that means to “teach” or “learn.” This suggests that this psalm was designed to “teach” one to pray.2
What that means is that this is a teaching psalm. The psalm teaches the reader how to pray. Just as Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, this psalm also teaches us how to pray. Prayer begins by turning to God. In this case, David is turning to God because he was escaping from a mutiny against his reign as king. Although we don’t know for certain when David penned this psalm, the rabbis believe it was written when David was fleeing from Absalom, his rebellious son.3 Absalom had rebelled against David and so David was seeking safety.
There are times in our lives when we seek safety. Prayer is the safest place to be. We spend time in prayer in solitude and we spend time with God. What are the benefits of prayer when I run into trouble? Why spend time in prayer? Why turn to God for help? This psalm shows me eight personal benefits of spending time in prayer.
EIGHT PERSONAL BENEFITS OF PRAYER
1. God guards – “guard” (Psalm 25:2-3, Psalm 25:20)
“My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one who waits for you will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced.” (Psalm 25:2–3, CSB)
“Guard me and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” (Psalm 25:20, CSB)
The first benefit is that God guards me. God protects me. He keeps me from being disgraced. There may be bullies out there, but God is in the business of protecting His children. I don’t have to return violence for the violence brought upon me. I have to only ask for help from God. He will guard me.
2. God shows – (Psalm 25:4-5)
“Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; I wait for you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4–5, CSB)
The second benefit is that God can show me. That can only happen if I ask Him to show me.
Dr. Woodrow Kroll notes about prayer4:
“Communication in business today is so important that 90% of U.S. companies provide communication skills training in the workplace. Subscribers to the Harvard Business Review rated the ability to communicate as more important than ambition, education, and the capacity for hard work.”
If it is so important for life today, don’t you think asking God to show you would be important in your prayer life as well?
3. God remembers – “remember” (Psalm 25:6-7)
“Remember, Lord, your compassion and your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with your faithful love, remember me because of your goodness, Lord.” (Psalm 25:6–7, CSB)
The third benefit is that God remembers. God has a special memory ability. He can choose to remember. He can also choose to not remember. Here, David appeals to this special ability. He asks for God to recall His compassion and faithful love. Out of this compassion and love, David asks God to forget David’s sins.
4. God instructs – (Psalm 25:8-10)
“The Lord is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the Lord’s ways show faithful love and truth to those who keep his covenant and decrees.” (Psalm 25:8–10, CSB)
God doesn’t show. He also instructs me. That is the fourth benefit of my prayer life. God instructs based upon His character. That means that God teaches me based upon who He is. When God instructs, He shows goodness, love, and truth.
5. God forgives (Psalm 25:7, Psalm 25:11, Psalm 25:18)
“Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with your faithful love, remember me because of your goodness, Lord.” (Psalm 25:7, CSB)
“Lord, for the sake of your name, forgive my iniquity, for it is immense.” (Psalm 25:11, CSB)
“Consider my affliction and trouble, and forgive all my sins.” (Psalm 25:18, CSB)
When I sin, God is there to forgive me. That is the fifth benefit to prayer. This psalm shows God’s forgiveness in the beginning, middle, and end of the prayer. The forgiveness of God is connected to the name of God. “For the sake of Your name,” is the central point of this prayer. Because of God’s reputation, He will forgive sin. What does that mean? It means that it is part of God’s nature to forgive your sin. David asks three times for God to forgive his sin. It is a benefit of prayer because it has a healing effect.
When God forgives, He is then prepared to confide.
“Who is this person who fears the Lord? He will show him the way he should choose. He will live a good life, and his descendants will inherit the land. The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he reveals his covenant to them. My eyes are always on the Lord, for he will pull my feet out of the net.” (Psalm 25:12–15, CSB)
As I deepen my relationship with God in prayer, as He shows me, and instructs, then God will confide in me. God reveals Himself to people who “fear” Him. When I “fear” Him, it means that I respect God and I am willing to listen to Him. When God sees that I respect Him, He is now willing to share more about Himself. It’s called revelation. God reveals Himself. But He doesn’t do that to just anyone.
As my relationship with God grows, my prayer life deepens. Just as God confided in Abraham later in life when God told Him to be blameless, God expects more maturity out of me when I continue in my relationship with Him. God doesn’t confide more to immature Christians. God reveals more to Christians who listen to God more.
If I am not spending time with God, then why should He waste time sharing important things with me? When God confides in you, it means that you have developed a level of trust with God. Yes, I trust God. But here, God trusts me.
“The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he reveals his covenant to them.” (Psalm 25:14, CSB)
The counsel of God is secret. It is not for just anyone.
So often we ask the Lord what His heart is, and then think we have the option of deciding whether or not we want to go His way. God is not obligated to share His secrets with us if we are not committed to obeying the directions He gives. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, with those who are in awe of Him, with those who are determined to obey. It is the man who says, “Lord, You are my God. You are my King. And what You tell me to do, by Your grace and with Your help, I am determined to do,” who will know His will.
Sometimes people say they’re not being directed by the Lord, that they don’t know what His will is for them. And sometimes we need to say, “Have you obeyed the last thing He told you to do?” You see, I have found that He won’t allow my spiritual “in-box” to pile up. He only gives me one assignment at a time. And when I do that, He gives me the next thing to do. When we do the last thing God told us to do is when we’ll be told the next thing we need to do.5
7. I hope – “wait” (Psalm 25:3, Psalm 25:21)
“No one who waits for you will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced.” (Psalm 25:3, CSB)
“May integrity and what is right watch over me, for I wait for you.” (Psalm 25:21, CSB)
The phrase “wait” occurs as a set of bookends to this prayer. They begin and end this prayer. The word emphasizes my role in prayer. Waiting is an active verb when it comes to prayer. God’s answers to my prayer are worth the wait.
The Flying Roudellas, who were trapeze artists, said there is a special relationship between flyer and catcher on the trapeze. The flyer is the one who lets go, and the catcher is the one who catches.
As the flyer swings high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he must let go. He arcs out into the air. His job is to remain as still as possible and wait for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air.
The flyer must never try to catch the catcher but must wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him, but he must wait.6
8. God delivers – (Psalm 25:16-22)
The final section of the psalm is marked out by another shift to second-person direct address of Yahweh, accompanied by a new string of seven imperative verb forms that signal the psalmist’s final plea for deliverance.7
Many times when we pray, the first thing we ask for is deliverance. Here, David makes it the last thing he asks. What this psalm shows is that God will deliver me. There are seven different verbs that reveal the kind of deliverance that God brings. In these verses, the psalmist goes back and forth about the two kinds of deliverance. Sometimes, God takes him out of the situation, and other times, God takes him through the situation.
Back and forth, I hope and God delivers. I hope and God turns (Psalm 25:16). I wait and God is gracious (Psalm 25:16). I wait and God brings me out (Psalm 25:17). I look up and God looks upon (Psalm 25:18-19). I hope and God takes away (Psalm 25:18). I seek and God guards me (Psalm 25:20). I trust and God delivers me (Psalm 25:20). S
What God does for David, He will do for all His people in Psalm 25:22.8 What God does for all His people, He will do for you, if we come to Him in prayer and simply ask, wait, and hope.
1 Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for February 18 from Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).
2 C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms 1–72, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, vol. 1, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 186.
3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 31.
4 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2005 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, n.d.), 60.
5 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 32.
6 John Ortberg, “Waiting on God,” Preaching Today Audio, no. 199. From: Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 465.
7 Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms, vol. 1, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 465.