Praise and Prayer from the Pits
The last two steps in the pathway out of the pits of life are prayer and praise. Psalm 40 shows us that praying and praising gets us through the pits.
In fact if we back up through all we have seen so far—it all makes so much sense.
- When we pray we can praise;
- When we praise we can repeat truth about God;
- When we repeat truth about God we can renew our submission to God;
- When we renew our submission to God we can reaffirm our trust in Him;
- When we reaffirm our trust in Him we can remember His work in our life.
And back we go again to prayer, to praise and back through those six steps David captures for us in the pathway out of the pits. So the last two steps in the pathway out of the pits of life are praise and prayer.
To introduce Psalm 40, turn with me to I Thessalonians 5:16-18. What can God do with our hard times, lonely times, dark times and fearful times? He can use them if we give ourselves to Him. In fact, we can even begin to rejoice in the Goodness of God even in the darkest of circumstances. That is what David does in Psalm 40 and that is what Paul tells us by the power of the Holy Spirit—we all can do in every circumstance we find ourselves in through all of life.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Does that work nowadays? The Psalms are 3,000 years old—do they still work? To find out, let's listen to a testimonial from none other than Paul, writer of half of the New Testament!
Psalm 40 is a song or Psalm written three thousand years ago by David as he faced the low point of his life. Now turn with me to Acts 16 and look at one of the low points of Paul's life. As we read, I want you to see the way that Paul dealt with the pits of life.
- Acts 16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Isn’t it interesting how many words we pulled right out of the Greek language into English? Hunmeo—what does that sound like? Hymns—they were singing hymns to God. And what is amazing is the prisoners were listening to them.
You say, "What were they singing?” We know what they were singing because hunmeo doesn’t just mean randomly singing, it is the same word that is used at the Last Supper with Jesus Christ. It says in that Scripture that when they had sung a hymn (hunmeo) they went out. In the Greek language translating the Hebrew events that always means that they were singing from the Psalms.
Look at Psalm 113 with me because we know what Paul was singing in the prison. And I know, growing up for years, I wondered what would they have been singing? What songs were popular back then? Well, the word that is used tells us. That is one of the blessings of the Greek language—it gives us insights that we can enjoy even in English.
In Psalm 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118 and 136 were the “hunmeo” (hymns) that the Jews sang at special events. Remember they did not have the New Testament yet. This book of Acts is a very early part of the canon of the New Testament. The Gospels came later, most of them and Paul’s Epistles followed. So there is no New Testament—they don’t have “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” yet. They are singing the Old Testament.
In Psalm 113 I want to show you how to praise the Lord even through the pain. Now I don’t know what pain you are going through. You might be going through family pain, or social pain, or physical pain, emotional pain. You might be going through financial pain. You can sing through the pain if you get these words. You can imagine Paul bent over and bleeding in a dark stinky prison with no ventilation, no sanitary facilities, no pest removal service to kill all the vermin.
This is what Paul is singing:
- Psalm 113:1-2 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD! 2Blessed be the name of the LORD From this time forth and forevermore!
Paul said I want to praise the Lord right now and always.
v Point #1: Pray and Praise Consistently
Do you know how to praise the Lord through pain? Praise Him when you are not in pain. Praise Him when things are going well. Praise Him right now before the pain starts and you will be able to praise Him always.
v Point #2: Pray and Praise Systematically
Again in this Psalm note another truth.
Psalm 113:3a “From the rising of the sun to its going down “
Don’t just praise Him sporadically, praise Him not only right now and all the time but praise Him through out the day. Don’t compartmentalize your life. Don’t say my life belongs to the company I work for and God gets Sunday. Praise Him from the rising of the sun to it’s going down. So not only now and always, but all day long.
v Point #3: Pray and Praise Reverently
- Psalm 113:3b “The LORD's name is to be praised.
Focus on God’s immutable character. God does not change. My circumstances do. My conditions do. My life changes. My health changes. My “ups and downs” come and go. But God is always the same.
You know, most of us live between downs and ups. Aunt Mary died- we are down. But Aunt Mary left us and inheritance- we are up. We hope to settle in between. Praise not what I am going through, not what I feel right now, not what I hope is going to happen. Praise something that is changeless. “The Lord’s name is to be praised.” God is immutable. His Word does not change, his character does not change, His Christ does not change. God does not change.
v Point #4: Pray and Praise Confidently
- Psalm 113:4-5 The Lord is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. 5 Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high,
How do you sing through pain?
- By realizing that God is sovereignly in control.
- By believing He is omnipotently able to take me right out of the prison of my pain if He wants to. If I am in it, I need to be in it because it is part of his plan.
- By trusting that He is in control, He is higher than the doctors and the politicians and the business owners and the tax collectors or whoever is on you right now. He is not only in control, He is the greatest, He is above them all.
- By adoring Him as majestic, He is awesome, He is beyond our comprehension and He wants us to know about Him and sometimes that is why we go through pain. If life is all perfect and good we would not have time for Him. That is why He sends pain and suffering into our lives. That’s why He sends those events that are so hard to understand because we need to come to Him if we cannot understand them. If we cannot endure them, if we cannot make it through, we need to come to the One who is higher than us. That is what He wants us to focus on in our pain.
v Point #5: Pray and Praise Humbly
- Psalm 113:6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?
He is in touch with us. This verse says that He bows down His ear to hear. He opens His eyes to behold what is going on in our lives. He is the One who wants to get our attention. That is what Paul is singing about down in the prison.
Can you imagine him down there in the stocks, bleeding, bugs crawling on him, saying “God is in control, God knows all things, He owns all things, He can set me free in an instant if He wants to. Wait a minute, we haven’t come to the end of the story because it is going to happen.
v Point #6: Pray and Praise Meditatively
What was Paul meditating upon in his prison cell? He is pondering the compassion of our Great God.
- Psalm 113:7-9 He raises the poor out of the dust, And lifts the needy out of the ash heap, 8 That He may seat him with princes—With the princes of His people. 9 He grants the barren woman a home, Like a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!
There aren’t many things that are as strong as a woman’s desire to have children but cannot. They will go to any length-- they will go to a fertility doctor, they will take all the tests, they will be totally uncomfortable and go through all the ups and downs and hopes.
Do you know what this Psalm says? He will satisfy even the deepest needs. You cannot think of a deeper need than that of a woman who wants to be a mother. “He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children.” Praise the Lord.
Now, in the Hebrew economy, there was no higher or greater desire than to have children. Then, your worth was in your children. What a wonder it was to have children. God says that a Godly woman’s worth is in raising and cultivating Godly children. If God does not give physical children, He says you ought to have spiritual children.
But what we see here in the 9th verse of the 113th Psalm is that the God who is the God that were to praise now and always and the God that we are to praise from the sunrise to the sunset is to be our focus.
Focus on His immutable character,
- He is in control,
- He is the greatest,
- He is majestic, awesome,
- He is in touch,
- He is compassionate,
- He can satisfy our deepest needs what ever they are.
We could do this through all those Psalms (113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118 and 136). God is the one who can help us to sing through our pain.
What is the lesson?
1. We can sing through pain. How? By focusing on the eternal, changeless God.
2. By praising Him now when things are not bad and always.
3. By praising Him all day long,
- Praising Him because He is the greatest
- Praising Him because He is in control
- Realize that He can satisfy the deepest needs of our heart
That is the God that wants to take us through pain and suffering. Not remove us from it, but let us learn through it.
“It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
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