Category Archives: Prayer

An Exhortation to Pray for Our President (Psalm 20)

Today’s Bible Reading is Exodus 1-2, Psalm 20, and Matthew 20. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 20.

Psalm 20 is a nation’s intercessory prayer for her king the day before he leads the sons of Israel into battle.  The psalm is instructive and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to pray and intercede with God on behalf of our leaders.

I am afraid the majority of 21st century Christians look at the drama in Washington, DC as little more than political theater.  Some Christians suggest we be impartial in political matters and give little thought or time to them.  Of course, the matter of praying for those in authority is unquestionably commanded by God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).  Let us consider Israel’s prayer for her king (Psalm 20).

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid] from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

Israel was confident the king had come before the LORD, sought His wisdom and offered sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The people prayed God would not only hear the prayers of the king, but would go before him into battle (20:1-2).

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people prayed He would accept the king’s sacrifices, hear, and answer his prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Before the battle was fought, the people promised the LORD He would be the object of their praise believing He would answer their prayers and give the king victory (20:5).

Psalm 20:5 – “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil  [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

On a personal note, troubles and spiritual battles are an ever-present reality for us in this sin cursed world.  Some adversaries threaten us with physical harm, others attack our character, question our motives and assail our testimony.  We also face spiritual trials that tempt us to turn aside from God’s purpose, question His goodness, and threaten our joy.

Consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20.

The first, the LORD hears and answers prayer.  Israel prayed for God to bless the king in battle and be his shield and fortress (20:1-2).  Christian friend, we should pray the same for our President.  As Israel prayed for her king, we should pray for President Trump.

The second, we need to pray and assure leaders of our prayers (20:3-4).  More than an assurance of goodwill, Israel assured the king their prayer was for the LORD to grant him wisdom and bless his strategy for battle.  Agree or disagree with his politics,  believers should be brokenhearted to hear President Trump’s enemies assail him, his family, and supporters with a vitriol exceeding any we have witnessed in modern times.  Such malicious attacks should move us to pray for our President and nation.

The third lesson expresses the faith of the nation in God’s grace and blessings.  Before the battle was waged, the people were planning the victory celebration; confident God heard and would answer their prayers.

A farmer told the story how he heard a voice when he was walking through the woods near Washington’s army encampment at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Drawing near, the farmer found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God.

Returning home, the farmer assured his wife America would win her independence.

When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure.  He answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Got Trouble? God’s Got a Plan! (Psalm 18:30)

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Follower,

We have seen many reminders of God’s providential care throughout Joseph’s life and admired his faith and fortitude through the sorrows and injustices he suffered.  Hated by brothers whose jealousy drove them to sell him as a slave.  Falsely accused by his master’s wife, unfairly sentenced to prison, and forgotten.  Consider another example of faith in the providence of God recorded by David in Psalm 18:30.

Psalm 18:30 – “As for God [“El”; “Almighty God”], his way [path; actions] is perfect [without blemish]: the word [commandment] of the LORD [Jehovah] is tried [refined; purged by fire]: he is a buckler [small shield] to all those that trust in him [make Him their refuge].”

It is easy to say, “the way of God is perfect” when we are free from trials and troubles; however, are we willing to trust the LORD when trials shadow our days?  Will we trust Him when we are like gold passing through a smelter’s fire?

When enemies malign us and friends betray us, will we, like David turn to God’s promises and hope in the LORD?  Will we trust Him as our “buckler” (a small shield for hand-to-hand combat), when an enemy means to harm us?

Reflecting on the character of God (18:31), when David asserts, Jehovah is my Refuge (i.e. “rock”), his strength was renewed (18:32), his courage restored, and his steps made sure (18:33, 36).

Friend, are you facing trials?  Don’t lose hope!  Be confident “His way is perfect” and the fiery trials you are facing have the potential of purifying your heart like silver and strengthening your character like steel!

Give thanks to the LORD even before the trial is past knowing His mercies fail not (18:46-50)!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Blessings! (Psalm 16)

Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 45-46, Psalm 16, and Matthew 16. Our devotional is from Psalm 16:6.

Psalm 16 is known as the “Golden Psalm”.  Quoted by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28), its closing verses give a prophetic picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11).

For today, our focus is Psalm 16:1-7, a portrait of a believer’s walk of faith in the LORD. For your mediation, I invite you to consider this simple outline: Faith’s Security (16:1), Faith’s Passion (16:2-3), Faith’s Influence (16:4), Faith’s Inheritance (16:5-6), and Faith’s Instructor (16:7).

Psalm 16:10 seems to indicate David wrote this psalm at a time he was in peril.  Perhaps fearing for his life, he cries out to the LORD, Preserve [guard; protect] me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust [confidence; seek my refuge]” (16:1).  Knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer, David took refuge and comfort believing God would preserve and protect him.

Psalm 16:6 gives us a picture of a surveyor marking the boundary lines of a man’s property, perhaps the portion of his inheritance.

Psalm 16:6 – “The lines [measure; inheritance; portion] are fallen [allotted] unto me in pleasant [delightful; sweet; lovely] places; yea, I have a goodly [fair; pleasing] heritage [inheritance].”

In spite of perils and troubles he was facing, David did not allow them to drive him to despair.  With his focus on the LORD and recalling His blessings and promises, he writes, “I have a goodly heritage” (16:6b).

What a blessed truth! When your heart is burden and your thoughts tempted to despair, remember the LORD has laid out for you “pleasant places”.   He has apportioned His grace, mercies, and favor to His children.

Take a moment and count the LORD’s blessings.  Contemplate “the lines, the portion, the measure of His  grace”.  Remember the goodly heritage you have in the LORD…your salvation, His promises, your family, friends, and church family.  Cherish the moments and count the blessings!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

 

Like a Father, the LORD Loves the Righteous (Psalm 11)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 29-30, Psalm 11, and Matthew 11. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 11.

We are uncertain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, we know king David was facing the threats of an enemy and weighing the counsel of advisers who urged him to flee.

There are times retreat from confrontation is a wise choice.  David fled from the presence of Saul when the king attacked him. David fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the people’s affections and led an insurrection against the king.  However, as we learn in our study of Psalm 11, there are times we face adversaries and the LORD would have us stand fast and trust Him.

We do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors answered their king, reminding him the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2) and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the nation (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder…regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands we compromise our integrity, the LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven and He is Just!  The ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded and the ways of the wicked will surely be punished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”(Psalm 11:7)

What a great thought!  The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!  Like a father looks adoringly at his children, the LORD looks upon the righteous.

My friend, perhaps there is an enemy that haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes.  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

To Know God’s Will You Must First Be Doing His Will! (Genesis 23-24)

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7); John the Baptist answered that question 2,000 years later when he said concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same isHebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

A theme for Genesis 24 is simply stated,“Here Comes the Bride”.   Following Sarah’s death, Abraham was burden to find a fitting wife for Isaac, his heir of God’s covenant promises. Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes in Canaan, Abraham sent his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).

Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing a young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).  God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).

In a prayer of praise and a lesson to all who desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).  Perhaps someone is reading this devotional and find themselves sincerely seeking the will of God in a matter or His direction for their lives.

Take a lesson from Abraham’s eldest servant: To know the will of the LORD you must be “in the way” of the LORD. You cannot pray sincerely for the LORD to reveal His will if you are not “in the way” of the LORD…obedient to His Word, walking the path of His choosing, and submitting to the authorities He has providentially placed in your life.

Do Right, my friend and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will also be confident in it!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith