Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Psalm 4 - Part 2: Step 1 - Stand in Awe

Psalm 4 - Part 2: The Most Powerful Intercessory Prayer Formula in the Bible - Step 1

In part 1, introducing Psalm 4 as the most powerful SOS intercessory prayer formula in Scripture, we discussed the characteristics which make the Psalm 4 prayer necessary. Now, let's turn our attention to the prayer formula itself, which is found in this chapter. We will see what it means and discuss how to use it, specifically.

The most powerful intercessory prayer formula in all the Bible is found in Psalm 4:4-5, which reads:

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD. 

Let's look at each piece of this formula, explaining it as steps placed in the order in which we should do them. So, when you find yourself needing to pray for a dire situation, Psalms 4 instructs us to follow these steps in order:

Intercessory Prayer Step 1: Stand in Awe

The phrase "stand in awe" means that the first step is to demonstrate holy fear. Yes, there is a natural fear for the person for which you are praying. On that dark night, when I thought Joe might take his own life, I was afraid for him. But this is not what it means to "stand in awe". The word "awe" references our fear for God. This isn't a wet-your-pants terror in the presence of the Almighty. It is rather a holy reverence and deep adoration for God, Who is the King of the Universe.

When we fear God, we fear nothing else. When we fear God, we demonstrate that we recognize Who He and we respond by giving Him all our praise, adoration and worship. When we fear God, we submit ourselves under His Sovereign Authority in every aspect of our lives. 
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man, Ecclesiastes 12:13.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His Commandments: His praise endureth for ever, Psalm 111:10.
Naturally, I wouldn't have needed to pray a Psalm 4 prayer on Joe's behalf if he were "standing in awe" and truly fearing God in every area of his life. No, Joe wasn't "standing in awe" on his own behalf. This part of the prayer formula is to be done by the intercessor - you!

Fearing God is a life-style, a way of thinking, which is to pervade all that we say and do. But how to do we "stand in awe" as part of the prayer formula? In Psalm 111:10, it states that fearing God is demonstrated by praising Him. So, the first step in praying through Psalm 4 on another's behalf is to spend the first part of your prayer time praising God and worshiping Him.

It's an amazing thought, David understood that you don't begin a desperate prayer - even an SOS prayer - by whining and complaining. You put yourself in right perspective and in a positive framework from which to pray, by starting out in praise to God for His beautiful attributes. Here are a few to get you started:

Attributes of God – The Characteristics
Wisdom: “Wisdom is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect means.” In other words, God makes no mistakes. He is the Father who truly knows best, as Paul explains in Romans 11:33: “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!”

Infinitude: God knows no boundaries. He is without measure. This attribute by definition impacts all of the others. Since God is infinite, everything else about Him must also be infinite. 
Sovereignty: This is “the attribute by which He rules His entire creation.” It is the application of His other attributes of being all-knowing and all-powerful. It makes Him absolutely free to do what He knows to be best. God is in control of everything that happens. Man still has a free will, and is responsible for his choices in life.
Holiness: This is the attribute that sets God apart from all created beings. It refers to His majesty and His perfect moral purity. There is absolutely no sin or evil thought in God at all. His holiness is the definition of that which is pure and righteous in all the universe. Wherever God has appeared, such as to Moses at the burning bush, that place becomes holy just for God having been there. 
Omniscience: “God possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. God has never learned and cannot learn.” Omniscience means all-knowing. God knows everything, and His knowledge is infinite. It is impossible to hide anything from God. 

Self-existence: When Moses asked who he was talking to in the burning bush, God said, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS.” God has no beginning or end. He just exists. Nothing else in all the universe is self-caused. Only God. In fact, if anything else had created Him, that thing would be God. This is a difficult concept for our minds since everything else we will ever encounter comes from something other than itself. The Bible says, “In the beginning, God.” He was already there.

Self-sufficiency: The Bible says that God has life in Himself (see John 5:26). All other life in the universe is a gift from God. He has no needs and there is no way He can improve. To God, nothing else is necessary. He does not need our help with anything, but because of His grace and love, He allows us to be a part of advancing His plan on earth and being a blessing to others. We are the ones who change, but never God. He is self-sufficient.

Justice: The Bible says that God is just, but it is His character that defines what being just really is. He does not conform to some outside criteria. Being just brings moral equity to everyone. When there are evil acts, justice demands there be a penalty. Since God is perfect and has never done evil, no penalty would ever be necessary; however, because of His love, God paid the penalty for our evil deeds by going to the cross Himself. His justice needed to be satisfied, but He took care of it for all who will believe in Jesus.

Immutability: This simply means that God never changes. It is why the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Mercy: “Mercy is the attribute of God which disposes Him to be actively compassionate.” Since God’s justice is satisfied in Jesus, He is free to show mercy to all those who have chosen to follow Him. It will never end since it is a part of God’s nature. Mercy is the way He desires to relate to mankind, and He does so unless the person chooses to despise or ignore God at which time His justice becomes the prominent attribute.

Eternal: In some ways, this fact about God is similar to His self-existence. God always has been and will forever be, because God dwells in eternity. Time is His creation. It is why God can see the end from the beginning, and why He is never surprised by anything. If He were not eternal, God’s promise of eternal life for those who follow Jesus would have little value.

Goodness: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” This attribute of God is why He bestows all the blessing He does on His followers. God’s actions define what goodness is, and we can easily see it in the way Jesus related to the people around Him.

Gracious: God enjoys giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it. Grace is the way we describe that inclination. Christ is the Channel through which His Grace moves. 
Omnipotence: Literally this word means all-powerful. Since God is infinite and since He possesses power, He possesses infinite power. He does allow His creatures to have some power, but this in no way diminishes His own. “He expends no energy that must be replenished.” When the Bible says God rested on the seventh day, it was to set an example for us and our need for rest, not because He was tired. 
Faithfulness: Everything that God has promised will come to pass. His faithfulness guarantees this fact. He does not lie. What He has said in the Bible about Himself is true. Our Saviour even said that He is the Truth. This is extremely important for the followers of Jesus because it is on His faithfulness that our hope of eternal life rests. He will honor His promise that our sins will be forgiven and that we will live forever with Him. 
Love: Love is such an important part of God’s character that the apostle John wrote, “God is love.” This means that God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern. For a full definition of love, read 1 Corinthians 13. To see love in action, study the life of Christ. His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of others is the ultimate act of love. God’s love is not a love of emotion but of action. In demonstrating it, He has given us what we need, in spite of the fact that we do not deserve it.
Psalm 103 is a wonderful chapter of the Bible which is about praising God and extolling His virtues. You may even wish to incorporate parts (or all) of this chapter in your praise time.
"...Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy Name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.  The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever.  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  For as the Heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us," Psalm 103:1-12.
So, as hard as it may sound at first, when you begin this most urgent form of intercessory prayer - you pause - and set aside the first 10-20 minutes of your prayer time to just praise God. As you do, your own heart and mind will begin to shift into the framework that is needed to pray hell-shattering prayers.
...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, James 5:16

Intercessory Prayer Step 1: Stand in Awe - Step 2 will be presented in Part 3...