Praying with Confidence in God’s Word | Psalm 119:73-80

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  • Praying with Confidence in God’s Word | Psalm 119:73-80
  • There are two types of God-talk in Psalm 119. The author speaks about God and to God. This tenth stanza consists of the latter, as the psalmist addresses the Lord in each of these eight verses. This stanza is a prayer. It teaches two lessons about prayer. 

    Handle everything with prayer. In previous sections, the psalmist says a lot about the difficult circumstances and ungodly opposition he faced. He will further discuss his challenges in this section. Yet we do not find him angry, bitter, or resentful. He responds by going to God in prayer. His example teaches us to handle everything with prayer. When trouble comes, pray about it instead of doubting, worrying, hustling, fighting, or sinning. 

    Pray with confidence in God’s word. We often struggle in prayer because we pray with the wrong attitude. When we suffer affliction, our inclination is to do something. We do not view prayer as doing something. And we do not believe prayer will make a real difference. That was not the attitude of the psalmist. He did not allow his circumstances to shake his faith in the word of God. He prayed with absolute confidence in God’s word. 

    Matthew 5:17-18 says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” “Iota” – or “jot” in some translations – is the Greek word for the Hebrew letter Yhod. Yhod is the smallest letter character in the Hebrew alphabet. Jesus said the universe will implode before the smallest letter of God’s word goes unfulfilled. The dot is not even a letter. It is the smallest stroke of the pen – like an apostrophe. Jesus did not just believe in word-for-word inspiration. He believed in letter-for-letter inspiration.  

    The Hebrew letter Yhod is the heading of this stanza of Psalm 119. Every line in these eight verses begins with a word that starts with the letter Yhod. The psalmist poetically arranged this section so its grammatical structure would affirm that you can pray with confidence that God will always keep his word. Because God’s word stands forever, pray with ruthless trust in God’s hand, heart, and help. 

    Trust the Hand of God. 

    Verse 73 says, “Your hands have made and fashioned me.” This statement is an anthropomorphism. It describes divine reality in human terms. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit.” God does not have hands. The psalmist speaks this way so that our finite minds can understand the infinite reality of God. The “hands” of God picture the omnipotent power of God at work. 

    God is Sovereign. In saying to God, “You made me,” the psalmist rejected the notion that he was a cosmic accident or product of evolution. God created us. Likewise, God “fashioned” us. The psalmist said, “You made me what I am.” Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

    No detail of your life is an accident. Acts 17:26 says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places.”

    Verse 73 contains an affirmation of sovereignty and a petition for illumination: “Your hands have made and fashioned me, give me understanding that I may live.” The fact that God made us means that God rules over us. Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his.” In willing submission to divine authority, the psalmist prayed for understanding to learn God’s statutes. 

    • Our bodies and souls matter to God. 
    • God is our Maker and our Teacher. 
    • The Lord fashions and fills the vessel. 

    Luke 24:45 says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” The scriptures were not closed, but the disciples’ minds were closed. They could not understand the scriptures until the Lord opened their minds. Neither can we. Pray for understanding. 

    God is Able. Verse 74 says, “Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.” Let me explain this verse by starting at the end and working my way back to the beginning. The psalmist testifies to God, “I have hoped in your word.” The psalmist prayed about his situation. He trusted with patience that God would fulfill the promises of his word. His expectation was so great that he envisioned his deliverance before it took place. Calculating the outcome in advance, the psalmist says, “When I get out of this, those who fear you shall see me and rejoice.”

    Notice the twofold outcome he imagines. First, he says those who fear the Lord shall see him. He expected his deliverance to be public. The godly would see him. The assumption was that believers were watching. You should also live with this assumption: You are being watched. Others are watching how you respond when you are afflicted. “Who is watching me?” you ask. I don’t know. That’s the point. 

    • You do not know who is watching you. 
    • You do not know who you are influencing. 
    • You do not know who your story will encourage. 

    What you are going through is not about you. Pray those who see the hand of God at work in your life will rejoice. That is the second outcome the psalmist predicted. He expected the answer to his prayers to result in godly people seeing him and rejoicing in God. This is why the corporate assembly of the saints is vital. We not only meet to share one another’s; but also one another’s joys. We rejoice together over what the Lord has done. 

    God is Good. Verse 67 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Verse 71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Verse 75 says, “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

    In verses 67 and 71, the psalmist does not directly mention God. We assume God’s involvement by the outcome of his affliction. In verse 75, the psalmist says, “You have afflicted me.” Verse 78 says the insolent wronged him with falsehood. He does not blame his troubles on proud men here. God afflicted him. He does not say this in anger. It is an affirmation of the goodness of God. The psalmist says, “I know.” It is not intellectual knowledge. It is a personal experience. It is not something he learned from a book. It is something confirmed by the testing of his faith. Through his affliction, the psalmist knew two things about God. 

     God’s Word is True. The psalmist says, “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous.” The psalmist may not have understood all God was up to in his affliction, but he leaned on what he knew to help him deal with what he did not know. Whatever God says conforms to the perfect standard of his holy character. 

    • God’s word is true. 
    • God’s rules are righteous. 
    • God’s plans are good. 

    God’s Ways are Faithful. He says, “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Some people take issue with this statement. They believe God only gives blessings. He never gives affliction. But Job told his wife that thinking you can receive good from God and not evil is foolish. God afflicts. But God afflicts in faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

    Trust the Heart of God. 

    In verse 75, the psalmist testifies about being afflicted. In verses 76-77, he does not pray to be delivered from his affliction. He prays the Lord would show him comfort and compassion in his affliction. He prayed that the one who crushed him would be the one to console him. You can trust the heart of God.  

    Look to God for Comfort. Verse 76 says, “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.” “Steadfast love” is the covenant-keeping love of God. The love of God is unending, unchanging, and unconditional. When God makes a promise, he will not go back on his word, even when we do not live up to our end of the agreement. The psalmist prayed the steadfast love of God would comfort him. 

    Why does God orchestrate the affliction of his children? It is not that we would turn away from him in bitter unbelief. It is that we would turn to him in hope-filled trust. The one who disciplines us is the one who delivers us. God comforts according to the promise of his word. God is a promise-keeper. When you have been wronged, pray with confidence that God’s heart is always in the right place toward you. And he will comfort you according to the faithful promises of his holy word. 

    Look to God for Compassion. Verse 76 is a prayer for the one who has been wronged. Verse 77 is a prayer for the one who has done wrong: “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight.” That you have been wronged does not mean you have done everything right. A sinful action does not justify a sinful reaction. The psalmist acknowledged he had not done everything right. And he prayed for the tender mercies, great compassion, and loving pity of God to intervene.

    The psalmist could not reach up or out for mercy. He prayed, “Let your mercy come to me.” This is good news: God will meet you where you are. The psalmist prayed, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live.” I believe the phrase “that I may live” is literal. The psalmist was convinced that his affliction would kill him if God’s mercy did not come to him. Without mercy, one merely exists. By mercy life is spared, sustained, and sanctified. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Some are said to die by the visitation of God, but we live by it.”

    Trust the Help of God. 

    A grandfather struggled with his new computer. His granddaughter came into the room and helped him figure it out. Then she showed him how to use the “Help” button. The next time, he could not figure it out, and she was not there. Prayer is the believer’s “Help” button. Trust the help of God. 

    Pray for the Ungodly. Verse 78 says, “Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me I will meditate on your precepts.” This verse is a glimpse behind the scenes of the affliction the psalmist suffered. Without rehearsing the details, he notes the insolent have wronged him with falsehood. He suffered verbal abuse. Proud men did him wrong by spreading gossip, rumors, and slander. The psalmist responded by praying for the ungodly. He prayed that the insolent would be put to shame.

    This is not an imprecatory prayer. He did not pray that something terrible would happen to his enemies. He prayed that they would be put to shame when their falsehoods were proven wrong. He did not pray the Lord would shut them up. He prayed the things they were saying about him would not be accurate. W. Graham Scroggie said, “We should leave the Lord to deal with the wicked.” As the psalmist was attacked by his enemies, he meditated on the word of God. The psalmist did not retaliate by fighting fire with fire. The weapons of his warfare were not of the flesh. He was armed with the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. 

    Pray for the Godly. In verse 63, the psalmist announces, “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.” In verse 79, he now prays, “Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.” This prayer indicates that you can identify the godly by who they associate with. The godly tend to hang out with the godly. The psalmist did not permit the wrong he suffered from the ungodly to cause him to disassociate from people. He desired the fellowship of the godly. He describes them in two ways: They fear God and know God. It is a spiritual instinct of godly people to gravitate toward those who know and love the word of God. But he did not merely want fellowship for his own sake. He wanted to be a blessing, not just get a blessing. He wanted those who yearned to know God better to turn to him and have their holy desire fulfilled.

    • When was the last time you asked the Lord to lead godly people across your path?
    • If people get closer to you, will they also get closer to the Lord? 

    Pray for yourself. In verse 78, the psalmist prays that the insolent would be put to shame. In verse 80, he closes this stanza by praying for himself: “May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame!”This prayer of an afflicted man contains no requests for changed circumstances. In this closing verse, he prayed that the Lord would do something in his heart. That is the ultimate priority. The heart of the matter is always the matter of the heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” 

    The psalmist prays the Lord would make his heart blameless. This is not a prayer that he would be perfect. This is a prayer that he would be pure. It is a prayer for a blessing. Psalm 119:1 says, Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” The psalmist prayed that his heart would be blameless in God’s statutes and that he may not be put to shame. It is a shame before God, not man. The psalmist did not pray that he would get through, over, out of his affliction. He prayed that, whatever happens, he would be able to present his life to God and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.