The Vocation of Prayer
Psa. 141:0 A Psalm of David.
1 I call upon you, O LORD; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you.
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Psa. 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
David found himself in a very difficult place. Psalm 140 is filled with his angst over those who would accuse and speak evil of him. Now, in Psalm 141 he pours out his heart to God. He realizes the place of prayer in the midst of difficulties — and maybe not just the place or prayer, but the vocation of prayer. He recognized that prayer had to become a part of his very being and calling.
Too much was happening in his life that was beyond his control and his temptation was to respond with his own words. Instead we discover in verse three that his prayer includes a request that the LORD would “keep watch over the door of my lips.” For pure prayer that is aimed toward God “must be matched by controlled speech manward.” (New Bible Commentary) His relationship with the LORD superseded anything else that was happening in his life and he was determined that his life and prayers would continue to be an offering before the LORD.
I’m afraid that we may have lost the true understanding of prayer. We write it off as if it were something trite because I’m not sure that we expect God to take action — or, could it be that we are afraid that if we do pray God may intervene and it may not be in the way that we would desire! All of this points to the fact that we may not understand the vocation of prayer. “The Christian vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation, we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding on simultaneously to the pain of the world and to the love of God.” (Wright, N. T. (2014-01-14). The Challenge of Jesus (Kindle Locations 2515-2517). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.)
Oswald Chambers reminds us: “Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, ‘I am of no use where I am,’ because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him.” (Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, Oct. 17)
When we get into that place of prayer with the LORD our hearts break together with his as we experience the world through his perspective. “Learn new ways of praying with and from the pain, the brokenness, of that crucial part of the world where God has placed you. And out of that prayer discover the ways of being peacemakers, of taking the risk of hearing both sides, of running the risk of being shot at from both sides.” (Wright, Kindle Locations 2539-2541)
David knew what it was like to be shot at from both sides. Those for whom he had fought were the ones who eventually sought his demise. He became homeless, a man on the run with no place to lay his head and yet, he called upon the LORD, desiring peace. He chose to live into the vocation or prayer while he guarded his mouth and ultimately God intervened and was given the glory.
Lord, teach me to pray. Amen.