Psalm 20:1-9 Trusting God in Prayer

Psalm 20:1-9 Trusting God in Prayer April 18, 2016

Psalm 20:1-9 Trusting God in Prayer

Living next to the Gulf Coast has sensitized me to “the calm before the storm,” that eerie moment of silence just before the winds and rains crash in upon us. The skies become leaden. The wind subsides momentarily. The smell of rain is in the air. It is as if nature pauses before its holocaust breaks loose. Similarly, life has its moments of calm. Battlefields lie quiet; then the bombardment begins. Anxious reporters freeze as news of the president’s condition comes from the emergency room. Marital strain can grip a family in silence before the cracks appear.

Psalm 20 is such a pause. Israel is ready for battle; the “day of trouble” has come. The legions with their banners are ordered for war. But while pagans trust in chariots and horses, God’s people trust in His name. In “the calm before the storm,” the commanders go up to the temple with their troops where the king offers his sacrifice and Israel is blessed for battle. Only when spiritual preparation is completed can the opposing forces be joined.1

Many people want to have victory in life. They want to see success in everything they do. Here, David prays for victory in the oncoming battle. He asks for God to hand him victory. He admits that other people trust in other things to gain victory. David only trusts God.2

But just because he doesn’t trust in other ways for success, that doesn’t prevent him from making the “big ask.” Eight times, David claims that God can do something for him to provide him victory. David prayed to God for victory in his circumstances. God helped him. David was in a very tight spot. But God helped him. Just as God helped David, He can also help you.

I agree with John Calvin about this psalm. He said:

Many interpreters view this prayer as offered up only on one particular occasion; but in this I cannot agree. The occasion of its composition at first may have arisen from some particular battle which was about to be fought, either against the Ammonites, or against some other enemies of Israel. But the design of the Holy Spirit, in my judgment, was to deliver to the Church a common form of prayer, which, as we may gather from the words, was to be used whenever she was threatened with any danger.3

These requests were from a king who was ready for battle against a national foe. I believe that we can personalize these requests from a child of a king who is ready for battle against a spiritual foe. So I want us to look at these prayers as petitions we can ask from God in our own lives.

EIGHT WORDS I CAN PRAY TO GOD

I SAY:

1. Answer me (Psalm 20:1, 9)

May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.” (Psalm 20:1, HCSB)

Lord, give victory to the king! May He answer us on the day that we call.” (Psalm 20:9, HCSB)

I don’t know about you, but I expect God in general to answer my prayers. God promises to answer when I call upon Him. In general, we want answers from God. So the first way in which praying to God can help me is because God answers prayer. He will answer if you ask Him.

2. Protect me (Psalm 20:1)

The psalm turns from the general call for answer to a specific type of answer: protection. It also establishes the immediate context; it is a “day of trouble,” a day of “distress” or “pressure.”4

Everyone has their days of trouble. Everyone has times in their life when they want protection.

May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.” (Psalm 20:1, HCSB)

In this case, God protects me when I call for help. He even protects me when I don’t realize it.

Ira Sankey was traveling on a steamer in the Delaware River when he was recognized by some passengers who had seen his picture in the newspaper and knew he was associated with evangelist D. L. Moody. When they asked him to sing one of his own compositions, Sankey said he preferred the hymn by William Bradbury, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

He suggested that everyone join in the singing. One of the stanzas begins, “We are thine, do thou befriend us; be the guardian of our way.”

When he finished, a man stepped out of the shadows and asked, “Were you in the army, Mr. Sankey?”

Yes, I joined up in 1860.”

Did you do guard duty at night in Maryland, about 1862?”

Yes, I did.”

I was in the Confederate Army,” said the stranger. “I saw you one night at Sharpsburg. I had you in my gun sight as you stood in the light of the full moon. Then just as I was about to pull the trigger, you began to sing. It was the same hymn you sang tonight. I couldn’t shoot you.”5

The word, Israel, means “Governed by God.” The word, Jacob, on the other hand means “Heel Snatcher.” Therefore, when you read about the God of Israel in the Old Testament, the reference is to the nation when it was obedient to God. When you read about the God of Jacob, the reference is to the nation when it was following its sinful tendencies. Thus, David’s prayer is, “May the Lord hear you even when you’re not doing as well as you ought.”6

3. Help me (Psalm 20:2)

May He send you help from the sanctuary and sustain you from Zion.” (Psalm 20:2, HCSB)

There are many times in my life when I need help. What do I do? I call on someone I know who can help me. If it is my car, I call a mechanic. If there is something wrong in the bathroom, I call a plumber. I call upon the right person to help me depending upon the situation. You can look at God as the Everyman helper.

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, HCSB)

4. Sustain me (Psalm 20:2)

May He send you help from the sanctuary and sustain you from Zion.” (Psalm 20:2, HCSB)

God doesn’t just help in times of need. He sustains me. He gives me the strength to get through the situation. When you depend upon someone to sustain you, you place your trust in that person to provide all of your needs. God has promised to do that:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, HCSB)

God has a large enough supply to sustain me.

5. Remember me (Psalm 20:3)

May He remember all your offerings and accept your burnt offering. Selah” (Psalm 20:3, HCSB)

David came to this situation with a long history of worship to God. He had built a strong relationship. David wanted God to remember that relationship now that David needed God’s help. David expected God to intervene because David had been loyal to God.

What we do day by day in times of peace prepares us for times of war. When our devotional life is a habit we are well served for the battle.7

As I build a relationship with God, there will be times when I want to recall that relationship to remind God that He should help me. This isn’t selfishness. This is a reminder of my dependence upon God. This leads naturally to my next point.

6. Give me (Psalm 20:4)

May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.” (Psalm 20:4, HCSB)

If I am dependent upon God daily, then when the tough times come, God will help me and give me what I need. Jesus this clearly:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33, HCSB)

When God gives to help me, it is not for my selfish endeavors. God gives to fulfill His purposes in me.

7. Fulfill me (Psalm 20:4)

May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.” (Psalm 20:4, HCSB)

God doesn’t just give to me to make me happy. He gives so that He can fulfill what He wants to do in my life. God wants to be my source in life. That is why God wants me to come to Him in prayer.

8. Lift me (Psalm 20:5-8)

Let us shout for joy at your victory and lift the banner in the name of our God. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.” (Psalm 20:5, HCSB)

God wants to give victory in your life. It doesn’t matter what kind of difficult or challenging situation you encounter, you just have to ask God for His help. He wants to lift you up. Just as the people of God would raise a banner in God’s name, I can raise a banner of hope in God’s name.

All of these answers are conditional. They can only happen if we ask God for help. We can’t trust in ourselves, our power, our strength. We can only trust in God to answer us in our time of trouble. So when we ask these requests, God’s answer is always: “trust Me.”

GOD SAYS: Trust Me

Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of Yahweh our God.” (Psalm 20:7, HCSB)

We should insist that this is not a formula for defeat but a formula for trust. Human resources are needful, but they can become a substitute for God’s help.8

God is the One who can solve our troubles. We can stand firm because we know God will answer (Psalm 20:8).

They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand firm.” (Psalm 20:8, HCSB)

His answers don’t take long. He answers on the day we call Him (Psalm 20:9).9

Lord, give victory to the king! May He answer us on the day that we call.” (Psalm 20:9, HCSB)

We can trust God, not to remove all crises and difficulties from our lives, but to bring us through them, and, in so doing, to achieve his purpose in our lives as well.10

God will answer our prayers. All He asks from me is: “Trust Me.” But this prayer from Psalm 20 is also a great prayer to pray for others. Take these phrases and change it to the name of the person you are praying for. You can use Psalm 20 to pray for someone else. John Barry gives us this insight in his devotional Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan:

I’ll pray for you.”

We say it often, but how many times do we actually remember to do it? Our biggest downfall might not be a lack of compassion—it’s probably just not taking time to write down the request and not having a model of praying for others.

When I pray for God’s will in my life, I’ve found that using the Lord’s Prayer works well when I’m having trouble praying. But I haven’t adopted a model for praying for others. Psalm 20 contains such a model, and the psalmist offers some beautiful words for others:

“May Yahweh answer you in the day of trouble.… May he send you help … May he remember all your offerings … May he give to you your heart’s desire … May we shout for you over your victory” (Psalm 20:1–5). And then the psalmist goes on to proclaim God’s goodness and that He will answer (Psalm 20:6). And this is the line I think I love the most: “Some boast in chariots, and others in horses, but we boast in the name of Yahweh, our God. They will collapse and fall, and we will rise and stand firm” (Psalm 20:7–8).

They will … fall … and we will rise.” We must pray for others with this kind of confidence.11

1 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 1–72, vol. 13, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1986), 166.

2 Jim Erwin, “Prayer of Victory in Life,” Lectionary Reflections C (2015-2016), Logos Bible Software Notes, 16 March 2016, found at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/03/16/prayer-victory-life/ accessed on 15 April 2016.

3 John Calvin and James Anderson, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 333–334.

4 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 1–72, vol. 13, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1986), 167.

5 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 342. From Kenneth R. Hendren, “In the Gun Sights, Men of Integrity (April 17, 2001).

6 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 23.

7 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 1–72, vol. 13, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1986), 168.

8 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), 146.

9 Jim Erwin, “Who You Gonna Call? My Troublebuster!” Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), 3 June 2015, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2015/06/03/gonna-call-troublebuster/, accessed on 15 April 2016.

10 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 173.

11 John D. Barry and Rebecca Kruyswijk, Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).


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