Recently I introduced a new series of articles based upon my five year anniversary this August from finishing cancer treatment and remaining cancer-free.
When I first returned to the pulpit in November of 2005, I preached a series of three sermons from Psalm 116 entitled Seven Biblical Resolutions Distilled from a Battle with Cancer. You can listen to part one here.
I articulated this theme from the text in light of the apparent deliverance enjoyed by the psalmist from some recent life-and-death threat:
Deliverance by God from desperate straits warrants renewed resolves in a relationship with God.
In the last post I addressed the first and arguably most important resolve toward God when He comes through big time in our lives – resolved to delight in God (1a). Now for the second.
One major reason for the expanded intensity of the psalmist’s love for God comes from his experience of answered prayer. I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me. The Hebrew word for inclined means to stretch out. There is something here of the condescension of our glorious God who bends down from heaven and cups a hand to His ear in order to hear even our faintest of prayers to Him.
Never is that more appropriate than in a time of crisis. Look at vv. 3-4 – the snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. THEN, I called on the name of the Lord (emphasis added). And he gives us the very words of his prayer – O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul! Not a particularly long prayer. Not a particularly eloquent prayer. Certainly not a difficult prayer. But prayer enough for the dire circumstances. Deliver me.
I can’t tell you how many times I lay my head down on the pillow at night during the final months of treatment and simply prayed, O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. It’s all I could muster.
Why night after night should any of us pray? Because God has decreed and ordained that He will work in our lives through the means of answered prayer. As a result the writer makes his first overt resolve in v. 2 – Therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Answers to prayer in the past and present should act as impetus for faithfulness in prayer in the future. God never changes. He is faithful to answer prayer. He hears and dispatches the angels of heaven to minister to our needs.
Just consider one verse from Phil. 1:19 to see Paul’s confidence in the efficacy of prayer to bring about deliverance: (writing from prison) For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance – speaking of his imprisonment in Rome. We need both, the prayers of God’s people and the help of the Spirit.
I shudder to think where I would be today without the steadfast intercession of saints all over the world who lifted me up to heaven during my battle with cancer – especially on the foremost of requests that I not sin against God with my lips. This is the great risk in desperate straits. We turn our backs on God. We take issue with Him. We find Him less than good because He ordains as v. 6 puts it that we be brought low. God is just as good in a biopsy that tests positive as He is in one that tests negative.
Don’t ever underestimate the role of prayer in dealing with a crisis of any magnitude. Pray yourself and solicit the prayers of others at every turn.