God led me to spend time in the book of Psalms lately. And even though this is not the first time I am reading it, there are still new insights, new observations and even new questions.
While washing the dishes, bothered by a certain chapter in Psalms, I asked God, “Lord, why does David pray like that? Why is he so bold in telling You about his enemies, and what his desires are for them? Why is he so bold in telling You what’s going on – what taunts him, what insults him, what hurts or burdens him?”
“Should I pray like that? No-holds-barred? But why should I pray like that? What’s hindering me to pray like that?”
There were no specific answers until last night during my one-on-one time with my Bible Study leader. We meditated and talked about Ephesians 3 where Paul reveals God’s mysterious plan and prays for the believers in Ephesus. It was a brave prayer for their spiritual growth.
Then it hit me: Yes, I am encouraged to pray continuously for people (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) but I do not pray boldly and bravely.
To pray boldly means to pray with courage and fortitude because you trust that the Lord is the only one capable of protecting, providing and making things productive. While to pray bravely means to pray even in the midst of fear.
When David prayed, “Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and conflict in the city. Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city. Everything is falling apart; threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.” (Psalms 55:9-11), it was as though his heart for the things going on around him translated to telling it all to God with no holds barred. He was so bold in telling God to confuse people who are distressing him and even to frustrate their plans because they are causing danger. He tells God what he observes and what’s happening, and He asks God to hear him and humble them (Psalms 55:19).
When Paul prayed, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Ephesians 3:18-19), it was as though his heart of the Ephesians translated to a desire for them to not only understand God’s love but to also experience it. And he tells it all to God while falling on his knees.
And here I am praying, “Lord, please guide them.” or “Lord, please go ahead of them.” or “Lord, please protect me and my loved ones.” I mean, there isn’t something wrong with these prayers but I realized that these aren’t prayers of faith to God but just comfortability from my end.
And the reason why I wasn’t praying as bold as David or as brave as Paul was because of my lack of belief on who God is.
Whenever David prays, there is always this outflow acknowledgement of who God is and what He can do – “But I will call on God and the Lord will rescue me. Morning, noon, and night, I cry out in my distress and the Lord hears my voice. He ransoms me and keeps me safe from the battle waged war against me, though many still oppose me. God, who has ruled forever, will hear me and humble them.” (Psalms 55:16-18)
And when Paul speaks and prays, there is always this relentless acknowledgement of God’s power, grace and love – “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources, He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:14-16)
And just this morning, I find David praying, “Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. With God’s help we will do mighty things for He will trample down our foes.” (Psalm 60:11-12). And then also just today, I read that Paul, before he prayed that prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, said, “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (Ephesians 3:12)
David prays boldly because his relationship with God is rooted with so much faith on who God is while Paul prays bravely because of his confidence in Christ alone.
I remember during my tennis glory days, whenever there is an opponent who has a higher ranking than me or someone who is more experienced than me, I am coached to go inside the court with a fighting spirit because “You have nothing to lose but everything to gain”. This mindset makes me bold and brave on court in spite of being the underdog — no fear of hitting long balls and hitting strong because I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes. If I win, I win because I defeated a higher-ranked or more experienced player and then advance in the tournament. If I lose, I still win because I get to experience that match and learn from that match.
And almost all the time, when there is no fear on court, a win always comes next. It is actually doubt and hesitations that cripple a tennis player to play and maximize his or her game. When I focus on the opponent rather than the ball, I lose. When I focus on what I cannot do, I lose.
Imagine if I would only pray to God with this kind of mindset – that no matter what happens, it will always be a win-win situation; that when I pray to God, I have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
What difference will it make if I pray to God boldly like David and bravely like Paul – no doubts and hesitations, not focused on the opponent or my circumstances but on who God is, and not focused on what I can or cannot do but on what God can and will alone can do.