Praying With The Psalms – Psalm 111

I often will turn to a Psalm in the Bible to help my prayer time with God in the morning. Like anyone, I find some Psalms more applicable to my life at the moment than others. For example, some Psalms are rather intense pleas for God’s deliverance from and judgment of the psalmist’s “enemies” (see Psalm 35). Most modern Americans find it hard to relate to these Psalms at this point in our lives, primarily because we are not so burdened in our souls because we’re being pursued by those who want to destroy us. But that’s because we are looking merely at our visible enemies.

Yet the Bible repeatedly warns us that our spiritual enemies are always at war with us, trying to destroy us (Eph 6:10-18; 1 Pet 5:8). When we forget our real enemy, the Deliverance Psalms seem to lose their applicability to us. We ignore such enemies in our prayers to our own peril.

Then there are those Psalms that simply praise God because of his Gospel promises to us as his people. They are powerful Psalms to pray and meditate through. One such Psalm I’ve enjoyed this week is Psalm 111.

Psalms 111 (English Standard Version)
1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

When we read these Old Testament Psalms through the lens of the New Testament—looking at the Psalms through the realities of Jesus Christ and his covenant promises to his people—we begin to see their full richness. For example, “he remembers his covenant forever” (v. 5), “in giving them the inheritance of the nations” (v. 6), is a promise to all of God’s people that’s guaranteed and fulfilled by and in Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28). We will inherit the earth in the Kingdom of Christ. Read through this Psalm in prayer in light of our great New Testament promises to us in Christ. It is ultimately these promises that this Psalm, and all the Old Testament, point to (Luke 24:44-45).

The first verse actually calls out to us to willfully begin to “Praise the LORD.” Often I must begin my personal time of prayer by simply starting to worship God. “I praise you, O Lord. You are my God. You are my Creator. You are the Giver of Life. You are my Redeemer. My Restorer. My Good Shepherd.” It’s a kind of switch I hit inside my heart and mind to just start doing it. Just starting is half the battle.

That’s how this psalmist starts his prayer time. “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.”

One last thought: beyond our own personal prayer time, this verse is also calling us to be regular, active participants in community/church worship. Which means that we need to get ourselves to church in order to worship, and it means we need to activate our hearts and minds to engage in worship when we’re there rather than letting ourselves be merely observers. Moving from being merely an observer to an active participant in worship is a kind of switch we hit inside ourselves when we get to church. I may or may not love the particular song or the style in which it is played today, but I must still engage my heart and mind in worship with the rest of the congregation. I’m not going to let myself merely observe. Here’s a key principle: observers always eventually become critics. We always evaluate what we just watch. In worship we are not merely watchers and observers of other people’s worship. We must move our own hearts, minds and souls to be participants, and be blessed personally when we do.

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