Pray With Your Affections: Lessons from Psalm 123
Prayer used to be my spiritual NyQuil. I used it to fall asleep. In the past, my prayers were so dull, I didn’t want to listen to them. I prayed without my affections.
Have you been there? Have you had days when your prayers felt dry and mechanical? Beloved, if your prayers seem empty, don’t lose heart. The Spirit intercedes for you (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit translates our pitiful prayers and makes them pleasing to the Father.
You may be wondering what to do when your prayer life is cold. How do you engage your affections? The answers are in Psalm 123.
Pray God High
“To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” (Psalm 123:1).
We rush to the “gimme, gimme” in our prays. Let’s try starting our prayers where the Psalmist starts: focusing on the one “who is enthroned in the heavens.” This is how Jesus told the disciples to start their prayers. He taught us to begin our prayers with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Don’t rush to give God your grocery list. Proclaim and thank him for who he is to you.
Begin by exalting God. Tell him about his unlimited might. Tell him about his steadfast love. Tell him about his new mercies every day. Tell him about the saving work of Jesus on the cross. If you need more help, here’s a prayer I used to hear growing up: ”He woke me up this morning. He closed me in my right mind. He started me on my way. He didn’t let me sleep too late.”
Pray Yourself Humble
“Behold, as the eyes of the servant look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2).
We often pray with pride. We pray like we only need God for the heavy duty tasks in our lives. Psalm 123 uses the analogy of servants looking to the hand of their master. Servants looked to their master’s hand for guidance, protection, and provision. We are to do likewise with God. But we will only look to the hand of the Lord if we humbly realize our true need for him.
Beloved, we need the hand of God for everything. Pray yourself low. In other words, tell God who you are. You can’t control yourself. You can’t move without God giving your limbs permission. You give in to temptation. You are a weak sinner. Proclaim you need Jesus to save you; you would be eternally condemned. Proclaim your works without Jesus are stained with sin. Tell God you can’t obey his commands without his strength. Pray the words of an old Gospel hymn,”Without God, I could do nothing. Without God, I surely would fail. Without God, my life would be drifting like a ship without a sail.”
Pour Out Your Heart
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:3-4).
Prayer should be reverent, real talk or holy honesty. The Psalmist says he has had more than enough scorn, and contempt. He’s tired of who are at ease and the proud. He is fed up, and he is being completely honest with God. He even asks for mercy twice. His repetition is the result of a burdened heart. He is pouring out his heart as best he can.
There needs to be complete honesty when we approach the throne of God. Our prayers are often so formal. Formal prayers tend to leave our affections aside, but we need to pour out our hearts to God. Pouring out your heart will transform your cold prayers into heated intercession.
Proclaim and meditate on who God is to you. Tell God how you feel. Tell him what you’re tired of. Tell God what you are struggling with and how you are coping. Tell him about the anger and unforgiveness in your heart. Tell him what causes you sorrow and brings you to tears.
Tell him what brings you great joy. Tell him what made you glad in the last week. Tell God what you are hoping for. Tell him what makes you covet. If you need a model for affection and complete honesty with God, look in the Psalms.
“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God”