April 28, 2017 • Life for Leaders
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
Let’s be honest. We begin our relationship with God because of what’s in it for us personally. We recognize that we need forgiveness and learn that God offers it. We yearn to be saved from our sins and know that God alone is the Savior. We need freedom from addiction or healing for our families, so we turn to the God whose grace offers these gifts and so much more.
The prayers of new believers are usually focused on their personal needs: “God, save me. God, forgive me. God, help me find a job. God, help me not to yell at my kids anymore. God, please mend my broken marriage.” There is nothing wrong with such prayers. Scripture teaches us to pour out our hearts to God without holding back. Prayers for personal help are modeled throughout the Psalms, God’s “textbook” for prayer. So, I am in no way suggesting that there is anything wrong with asking God to help you. In fact, failing to seek God’s help for yourself would border on arrogance, if not foolishness.
But, as we grow in our faith, as our hearts grow bigger through the presence of God’s Spirit within us, we find ourselves praying bigger prayers. We see this sort of enlargement in Psalm 67. It begins with a prayer for God to bless “us” and to smile upon “us” (67:1-2). “Us” could be the psalmist’s family or clan. In context, it probably means “God’s chosen people,” which is to say “the children of Israel.”
But then the prayerful vision of the psalmist grows. He asks that God’s ways and power might be known “on earth” and “among all nations” (67:2). He yearns for all nations to praise God. “May the peoples praise you, God” (67:3). He envisions a time when the Gentiles will join with the Jews in singing for joy to the Lord because they have experienced God’s sovereignty, justice, and guidance (67:4).
Thus, in the compressed form of Psalm 67, we see a stirring example of what happens when we personally receive God’s grace for ourselves. Not only are we blessed. Not only do we thank God and ask for more. But also, our hearts begin to turn outward. We seek God’s blessing for those around us, for our families and friends, for our neighbors and our workplace. As we continue to grow in faith, so do our prayers. We find ourselves praying that God will be praised by all people everywhere as they experience the matchless grace of God. We will cry out to God, not only for our own needs, but also for the needs of the world. We will pray for freedom for the oppressed and food for the hungry. We will ask the Lord to set free those who are in slavery and deliver those who are victims of injustice.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you experienced the kind of expansion we see in Psalm 67?
Do you feel a passion for God to be glorified throughout the earth?
Do you yearn for God’s grace and power to transform all creation?
Do you pray this way? Why or why not?
Gracious God, today I ask that you bless and guide me, so that I might live fully for you, delighting in your grace. Moreover, I ask you to bless my family, my colleagues at work, my church, my city, and my friends.
Yet, may your grace be poured out, not just upon me and those I know and love, but also upon all humanity. Where there is sickness, bring your healing. Where people are hungry, may they be fed. By your power, may victims of injustice be delivered. And where there is violence, may your peace prevail. As all of this happens, may all nations honor you, recognizing your awesomeness.
May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: God’s Shining Face
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Enjoying this encouragement, Mark. Maybe you know this-but Ps 67 is often read/recited during the seven weeks (49 days) of the Counting of the Omer between Passover & Pentecost. There are 49 days and 49 Hebrew words in the Psalm. Read in light of the Great Commission and the giving of the H.S. so all nations could hear the Gospel it also makes for an encouraging and challenging prayer.
Bruce: That’s fascinating. I did not know that. Thanks for the comment.
As an evangelical, my prayers were very “me-focused.” Prayers for myself, for my family and friends and church.
But when I first started attending the Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer expanded my prayers: for all pastors, for the Church Universal, for those who are not yet Christians, for those who lead our country, for those who fight injustice, for those who share the gospel worldwide, and so on.
And the little classic prayer book, The Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, did just as much in expanding my prayers. This morning, the 28th Morning, we prayed:
“for all who will to-day be faced by any great decision,
for all who will to-day be engaged in settling affairs of the moment in the lives of men and nations,
for all who are moulding public opinion in our time,
for all who write what others read,
for all who are holding aloft the lamp of truth in a world of ignorance and sin,
for all whose hands are worn with too much toil, and for the unemployed whose hands to-day fall idle,
for those who have not where to lay their head.”
The prayer ends:
“O Christ my Lord, who for my sake and for my brethren’s didst forego all earthly comfort and fullness, forbid it that I should ever again live unto myself. Amen.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Yes, the Book of Common Prayer and other tools can help us to pray more broadly and deeply. Baillie, also. Thanks for your comment, Susanne.