“I have a friend at church,” I began, “who says she gets a great deal from praying the Psalms. Have you ever done that?”
“You mean like read from the Book of Psalms as if they are my prayer to God?” Stan replied.
“Yeah, that’s it,” I said, “have you done something like that?”
“I have done that,” Stan replied. “Many of the Psalms are beautiful prayers, but it also seems to me that some of those Psalm prayers come with condition.”
“Condition?” I said. “What kind of condition?”
“Let me give you a simple example,” Stan replied. “Let’s take a look at Psalm 119:133.”
“Okay,” I responded. “What’s it say?”
“What it says,” Stan replied, “is about asking God to establish my footsteps in His word, and to not let any iniquity have dominion over me’.”
“Sounds to me like good things to pray about,” I replied. “What’s the condition?”
“While these two items are wonderful things to pray about,” Stan replied, “I also think that I have responsibility to do something to help God answer my own prayer.”
“Help God answer your own prayer?” I replied. “How so?”
“Well,”Stan said, “looking at the first part of what is says in that Psalm, asking God to establish me in His word, I think it can be viewed as asking God to do something that He might turn right around and ask me what am I going to do about it?”
“You think God might ask you that?” I responded.
“Yeah,” Stan replied, “if I pray to have my footsteps established in God’s word, but I don’t do anything to take the initiative to pursue being so established, I don’t think God is going to just zap me so that my footsteps are instantly established in His Word. It takes effort.”
“You think God expects you to do something?” I asked.
“I do,” Stan replied. “I think He expects me to do what I can. I also think He will certainly help, and may even do the heavy lifting, but He’s not going to do it all by Himself.”
“Well,” I replied,”what kind of things could you do to help establish yourself in God’s word?”
“First of all,” Stan said, “I need to be sufficiently familiar with God’s word so I can know in what I’m asking to be established.”
“Secondly,” he continued, “I think I need to be open to hearing and listening to God’s voice through the Holy Spirit as He leads me in being established.”
“As a third point,” Stan added, “I believe I need to get rid of my self-focused notions that I know what God is and is not going to do.”
“This sounds a lot like the discipleship thing you talk about,” I replied. “Denying what you want to do apart from God, taking up what He has for you to do, and following Him wherever He leads, whatever the cost.”
“You’re right,” Stan said, “but it’s not a discipleship ‘thing’. In my view, discipleship is at the heart, center, and core of being a Christian. It is to be what results when my footsteps are established in God’s Word!”
“So,” I replied, “this Psalm is about discipleship? Asking God to help in being a disciple?”
“That’s what I see,” Stan said. “And I think the key is asking for help, with the emphasis on ‘help,’ not asking Him to do something or everything while I do nothing.”
Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119:133.
And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you allow me to come before you in prayer. Thank you, too, for wanting me to be serious about our relationship; serious enough to do what you have for me to do to prepare for what you want to do in and through me. I confess that too often I ask you to do your will in and through me without preparing myself for you to do that. Please, Father, help me in being open to be and to do what you intend so that your will and your word can be and are established in me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: In your prayers do you ask God to do things in and through you without preparing yourself for God to act? If so, do you think that may be an impediment to getting from God what you ask? Why or why not? In line with the words of the Psalm used in this reading, what is involved in preparing yourself for your footsteps to be established in God’s word? Are you willing to do that? Why or why not? If you are willing, do you know how it can happen?