Sermon Passage: Psalm 143
How do I pray when spiritually assaulted? How do I prepare beforehand?
Psalm 143 is a prayer of David when his soul was being assaulted. He says his enemies pursued him. "I don't have enemies," you might say, "so how can I pray this?" You do have an enemy and you are in war. Your sin assaults you and threatens to cause destruction in your life. You sin is a constant enemy you fight against that will capture your heart. However, if you are saved, you're on the winning side. Satan and his demons pursue the faithful to tempt them into further sin, but God is our divine warrior.
How we pray reveals our view of God. It reveals how much our heart is inclined toward wonder and trust of God. When we're in the midst of assault, we sometimes don't see a clear way to get out. We become hopeless and despair. In verse 3, David says he feels as hopeless as one stumbling in the dark or as one who is already dead. In the midst of despair, my soul is so depleted that I can't remember the last time I felt spiritual nourishment. In verse 4, David says his heart is numb with despair.
What is our response in this situation of despair? Do we blame those who have caused our situation? Do we sulk in bitterness and self-pity, saying "poor me"? David doesn't. He turns to his memory of all God has done for him. He turns this into praise. Bitterness and self-pity are easy as they are self-affirming and prideful. We want to see ourselves as martyrs or heroes. But God is the hero in our story. David remembers God's past blessing and turns this into trust of God's present and future goodness. This response isn't natural. Self-pity is natural. This response is a habit, a second nature, that we cultivate to affirm our trust in God.
Only in Christ do we have the ability to have hope in despair, joy in tears, and trust in God when all else is stripped away. Our aim in this life isn't to get what we want or leave our kids with more than we had but to get God! We pursue wonder, trust, and praise in him. Growing in joy of God is our only goal and all else can be stripped away. When is the last time your heart skipped a beat because you remembered you have God? We pursue more and more joy in him through training our heart as the Psalms train our hearts to meditate on the wonder of God and taking joy in him alone. All else can pass away and we still have this joy because we are aware of God's love and grace that he continually shows us.
It is okay to ask for your situation to get better, however, but there's a catch. David says in verse 9 that his joy isn't in relief from his situation. He already has his joy. He turned to God and declared his joy in the midst of trials. We don't ditch God as soon as he delivers us. David asks for God's continued presence to teach him (verse 10). Further, his motive in asking for deliverance isn't his own comfort but that God should show himself glorious as his grace overcomes darkness. God's grace creates a story in David's life that he tells others to call them to praise.
In trials, David prays more for internal change than external change. His goal is not relief but joy in praising God. What if your goal in trials was not deliverance but to turn more and more to God, asking him to teach your heart to delight in obeying him?