Psalm 7:1-7: Just in Judgment (Psalm of the Day, 9/365)

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Psalm 7:1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high.

These introductory verses are key to understanding this psalm. The psalmist — who here speaks as Israel’s king — acclaims Yahweh as his God in whom alone he finds refuge from those who would overtake and destroy him. Recalling the way in which Psalms 1-2 have instructed us to christologically interpret the rest of the psalter — namely, in terms of the blessed Messiah who blesses all those who take refuge in him — we must understand this prayer as the Messiah’s appeal not only for his own deliverance from his enemies but also for the salvation of the people he represents. According to Psalm 2:12, those who take refuge in Yahweh and his Christ are blessed, not because of their own righteousness but simply because they have cast themselves helplessly on the very One who is their righteous Judge. In submitting to the very justice that would justly condemn them, they are granted the blessing of justification.

With Yahweh as his refuge, Israel’s Messiah is confident to be in the right, despite the taunts and accusations of his enemies who say, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35). This is why the king can invoke the judgment of God upon himself, for he is confident that he will be ultimately stand justified in the sight of his Judge over against the verdict of his enemies. This did in fact occur when in his resurrection and ascension Jesus was “exalted at the right hand of God” and universally proclaimed “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:33, 36), but not before the wrathful judgment of God against sin fell with terrifying fury upon his Chosen One. Whereas David prayed with confidence that he would be spared from judgment, his greater Son, the truly righteous One, obediently bowed his head knowing full well that his life would be trampled to the ground and his glory laid in the dust.

And yet, even before judgment falls, Christ prays with the certain hope that he will in the end be vindicated. Inasmuch as he vicariously represents all those who take refuge in him, so also can his people rejoice knowing that their sins have been condemned in his flesh and that his vindication ensures their own. Thus, those who belong to Christ need not fear the appointed judgment (nor anything else for that matter!), for they rest assured that there is now no condemnation for all who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). If Christ is their righteousness, what accusation could ever stand against them? For the just, judgment will mean salvation!

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Psalm 6: When Weeping is Praying (Psalm of the Day, 8/365)

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Psalm 6:1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

This psalm is a desperate plea for deliverance offered in the midst of much and varied forms of suffering: physical illness, weakness, danger from enemies. David’s transparency and honesty are stunning; no attempt is made to hide or sugarcoat the truth about his true condition. Why should there be? All is known by the Lord.

In such circumstances, prayer should not be a forced or faked positivity but a brutal, violent outpouring of the soul. David’s anguish has brought him to the place where he realizes that only God can save. At the end of verse 3, as he reaches the point where his words begin to fail, David finds that he cannot rely even on his own praying. 

It is interesting to note that much of this prayer is not supplication but complaint and weeping. Yet even here, God hears and will respond. As he who knows what we need before we ask, God answers the prayers not only offered in the form of praise and request, but also in the form of tears and silence.

As he moves to the conclusion of the psalm, David commands his enemies to depart and declares that they shall be put to shame. The fact that David speaks in the future tense, however, reveals that he is still in the same condition as before. At the end of the psalm, deliverance has not yet come. His circumstances have not yet changed, so what has? Only this — the Lord has heard.

For David, the fear and doubt and pain of the previous verses are outmatched by the simple knowledge that God has heard, even though his prayer was tainted by doubt and full of complaint. That is to say, the fact of God’s hearing is more sure than the fact of our asking. His answer does not meet us in proportion to our faithfulness, but in proportion to his own. As the apostle Paul would later put it, we do not live by relying on our own faith, but by relying on the faith of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20).

This, and not any obvious change of circumstances, is the basis of David’s (and our!) strength.

Psalm 5: Ever Singing for Joy (Psalm of the Day, 7/365)

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Psalm 5:1 Give ear to my words, O Lordconsider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lordyou cover him with favor as with a shield.

Whereas Psalm 4 is a song for the evening, Psalm 5 is a prayer for the morning. Though the psalmist has slept in confidence and peace (3:5), he awakes in turmoil and groaning. Such is often the experience of the faithful whose faith is often prone to faltering. In a fallen world where sin, pride, and falsehood abound, it is necessary that faith be attended to and renewed each day and every morning. We cannot presume on the presence of faith when the evil and corruption that threatens us from the world without also threatens us from our own hearts within.

Thus, the psalmist must turn his cry every morning to the only One whose faithfulness never fails, the King and God whose unwavering fidelity to his people does not fluctuate in accordance with their own wavering trust. How is it, then, that the psalmist can confidently declare that he will walk in faithfulness this day, even when surrounded by boastful, bloodthirsty, and deceitful people? Only on account of the faithful love of the Lord. Only God’s steadfast love—his covenantal, indefatigable, merciful, compassionate, and relentless affection for us—can sustain us in such a world.

Hence the need for assiduous daily prayer! The lies and flattery, the dangers and diversions, all of these demand that we continually beseech the Lord to make his righteous way plain and straight before us. We will always be tempted to “walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Ps. 1:1), and thus God’s constant guidance is our daily bread.

The psalmist concludes his prayer on a characteristic note of hope. Falsehood will not speak the final word! Those who find refuge in God and his Word will be ever glad and singing for joy. Note well: God’s truth is indeed the victory over this world, but truth wedded to joy! God’s Word should always make our tongues sing and our hearts rejoice, especially when from the fullness of that Word—the Word clothed in flesh and dwelling among us—we receive grace upon grace upon grace (Jn. 1:16)! Indeed, when compared to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus”, all other joys should appear as shadows and dust (Phil. 3:8). It was, after all, the desire of this Word that our joy be complete in him (Jn. 15:11).

Psalm 4: Our Only Good (Psalm of the Day, 6/365)

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Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
    How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?”
    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!
You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Intended as an evening prayer, Psalm 4 begins and ends with the request for and confession of confidence in the Lord’s presence and protection. It is God’s proven faithfulness in the past (Ps. 3) and the certainty of his covenant righteousness for the future that permit the psalmist — the Davidic King — to lie down in peace. 

In contrast with the “many” who (once again) seek after vanity and lies (Cf. Ps. 1:2, because in such things they find their delight rather than in God’s Word), the King responds with the promise and truth of God’s election and favor (2:6), on the basis of which he knows that God will always hear and answer his prayer. As in Psalm 1, loving vanity and seeking lies will ultimately prove self-destructive. Those who delight in such things “have forsaken [the Lord], the fountain of living waters” and have “hewn out for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Yet they wonder why they can find no good thing. Is this not sheer absurdity?

In reality, as the King attests, there is no good apart from the Lord and the light of his face. Even the greatest pleasures that the world can offer — here represented by the finest wine and the richest food — are loss and rubbish compared with the surpassing joy of knowing the King Jesus (Phil. 3:8). Yet we come to know this only when illuminated by the light of the face of Christ, for it is in his face, and his face alone, that we behold “light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:6) that causes all else to appear as mere shadow.

Thus, it is the Lord Jesus Christ “alone” who is everything that we need. He is our joy, he is our peace, he is our rest, he is our safety.

Psalm 3: From God’s Holy Hill (Psalm of the Day, 5/365)

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O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lordand he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O LordSave me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lordyour blessing be on your people! Selah

In reflecting on Psalms 1-2, we discovered that the interpretive key for the psalms, especially those of David, is that they are ultimately the songs and prayers of David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ. Whatever comfort or encouragement we may personally find in the psalms, we must always keep central this all-important fact.

Psalm 3 begins by describing the setting in which the king of Psalm 2 — the anointed one, the Christ — finds himself: surrounded by numerous foes who mock him because the victory of their plots against him seems sure. Their taunt that “there is no salvation for him in God” anticipates what Christ’s adversaries will say as they look upon his crucifixion in Matthew 27:43: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.”

Yet despite the overwhelming foes arrayed against him, the king is able to lay down and sleep — the most vulnerable position thinkable! — because of his confident faith in God’s protection, presence, and power to answer his prayer. The Lord will indeed answer from his “holy hill”, the very hill upon which he has firmly established his Christ (Ps. 2:6). Paradoxically, that holy hill will be revealed as a hill of death, a hill of crucifixion, and it will be upon a rugged cross planted there that Christ will ascend to claim his throne and inaugurate his kingdom.

The cross will not be the end, however, as Christ prays for deliverance, which inescapably will involve judgment. Indeed, Scripture everywhere testifies that salvation is only ever through judgment. The good news is that Christ has endured that judgment for the sake of all his enemies, yet those who continue to oppose him will be struck down by teeth-smashing blows.

Yet the final word of this psalm is not judgment but salvation. The king is the representative of his people, and so his salvation means their salvation. It was for this reason that Christ endured the hostility of his foes, that in his deliverance we might gain his blessing. Included in his blessing is this: that we can take upon our lips Christ’s words in Psalm 3 (as well as in all the other psalms) and use his prayer as our own. As for the king, so for his people. It is thus through the mouth of Christ that we are given to pray to his Father.

Psalm 2:7-12: The reign of Christ (Psalm of the Day, 4/365)

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7 I will tell of the decree: the Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 

Act 3: Christ speaks. The Word of the Lord is here recounted by Christ himself. According to Paul, this decree was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and enthronement in heaven (Acts 13:33). This “generation” of Christ does not have to do with his coming into existence, but with his coming into possession of a universal reign.

Confirming this are the subsequent words of the Lord which grant to Christ “every power … in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). Whether they want to or not, the very nations which opposed him will become subject to him. The imagery of the rod of iron that smashes earthen pots in pieces conveys the idea of decisive judgment in response to the rebellion of the nations. In terms of the whole sweep of the biblical narrative, however, this judgment ultimately serves to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose to bless all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3, 49:10). The final goal of judgment is to put the world into order, and to this end it must sweep away all that contributes to disorder.

Incredibly, Christ will grant his saints to participate in his authority over the earth at the time of his return (Ps. 149:6-9; Rev. 2:26-27; 19:15). Meantime, those who are seated with Christ on his heavenly throne in virtue of their union with him can intercede on behalf of the nations, asking God to make them Christ’s inheritance in salvation (Eph. 2:6).

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Act 4: The worshipper speaks. With his final exhortations, the psalmist challenges our concept of worship. Remembering that this psalm, like all the psalms, is a song to be used in worship, we must conclude that worship such as this has teeth, playing a vital role in the spiritual warfare to which the church is called. This is worship that commands what it proclaims — worldwide submission of every creature in heaven and earth to Jesus Christ — and that warns of the judgment which will fall upon those who stubbornly refuse to do so.

At the same time, this is worship that announces the joyful message of salvation: he who judges is also our refuge from judgment. Far from being contrary to his love, God’s judgment revealed in Christ is a manifestation of his love. The wrath of God is the form that his love assumes when its loving purpose is threatened by sin. Judgment is God’s refusal to accept the refusal of humanity. He judges because he loves, and he loves by means of his judgment.

To a Lord such as this, the right response is twofold: rejoice with trembling! Paradoxical though it may seem, this is the only possible response. The fact that Christ is the only righteous man means that the rest of us are all unrighteous and deserving of judgment. Ma this fact also means that whoever takes refuge in him will be justified, shielded in the shadow of his own perfect righteousness.

Psalm 2:1-6: Why do the nations rage? (Psalm of the Day, 3/365)

As the second half of the entry point into the psalms, Psalm 2 indicates that the rest of the psalter is not to be interpreted simply as the words of God to his people or the words of the people in response to God, but primarily as the words of the One who embodies both: Jesus Christ. It shows this by recounting a cosmic drama that unfolds through a series of four acts.

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

Act 1: The nations speak. In contrast to the righteous who, according to Psalm 1:2-3, meditate on God’s Word (and thus prosper even in times of want), the nations “meditate” on vain things and are thus doomed to failure. Inasmuch as it is the “nations” and “peoples” that do this, we must conclude, as Psalm 14:2-3 will declare, that there is no one truly righteous, not even one. This casts new light on the interpretation of the righteous man of Psalm 1: ultimately there is only one.

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

Here we see both the vain things that the peoples meditate (represented by their kings and rulers) and those against whom they do so. They seek to mount a rebellion against Yahweh and his “Messiah” — his Christ — viewing their authority as bondage. Indeed, this rebellion recapitulates the entire history of humanity ever since the first sin committed in Eden. But such rebellious meditation is vain because no one can stand against God and his Christ. Even at the culmination of human rebellion when Christ seemed defeated, when “there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27), even then the rebellious world did not triumph.

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

Act 2: Yahweh speaks. From the perspective of God in heaven, the self-vaunted plots of the peoples are ludicrous. God cannot be mocked; rather it is he who will mock those who attempt to do so! Though often derided, those who belong to Christ need never be ashamed (cf. Rom. 1:16-18), for the deriders themselves are those whom God holds in derision!

5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

The vain rage of the nations is further exposed in this: though they refuse to “meditate” on God’s Word (Ps. 1:2), they will hear it nonetheless, and they will have no choice but to bow in submission under its judgment. Those who try to rebel against God’s Word will nevertheless be terrified by it when it comes to them no longer as a promise of salvation (v.12) but of wrath. In one way or another, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).

Psalm 1:3-6: At the Crossroads (Psalm of the Day, 2/365)

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

The contrast in vv. 1-2 leads to a second: the “fruit” of these two ways. Those who delight in and meditate on the wicked’s counsel become unstable and unsubstantial like chaff, whereas those who delight in and meditate on the Word of God — and above all the Word that is Jesus Christ — become firmly rooted in the only source of all life and thus never cease to bear fruit, even in seasons of drought and famine. As Jesus said: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The third and final contrast reveals the final destination of these two ways. Those who follow the wicked’s counsel will be blown away in the judgment like the empty husks that they have become. Those who instead follow God’s Word walk the way that he “knows”, that is, the way of those whom the Lord approves, favors, and loves. Yet this “knowing” cannot be said to be earned, for indeed God’s “knowing” bespeaks a covenantal relationship that he himself establishes by grace alone. Confirming this is the fact that the “law” (torah) of v.2 is the instruction given specially to God’s covenant people, the people whom he has saved from slavery and to whom he has bound himself with a covenant: “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2). All of this is a gift of sheer grace.

Ultimately, then, it is from the very first step that everyone begins to walk either in the direction of salvation or damnation (vv.1-2). It is not possible to put off the decision of which road to take. “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15), because “today is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2). It is today, this very day, that makes all the difference, and wisdom does not linger at the intersection between these two paths but knows to discern to right one and to begin walking in it immediately.

Yet in the greatest sense, the line of division between these two ways, the decisive crossroad between salvation and damnation, is Jesus Christ: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt. 7:24, 26). He is both the divine Word that instructs and the blessed man who hears and obeys it. Thus, only those who “take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12) receive the blessings promised in this psalm, because only Jesus is the one who has perfectly fulfilled every covenantal condition on our behalf.

Psalm 1:1-2: It All Begins Here (Psalm of the Day, 1/365)

Since acquiring a copy of the ESV Interleaved Bible inspired by Jonathan Edwards’s famous Blank Bible, I have been doing my Bible reading with a pen in hand to jot down my thoughts, prayers, and meditations. Although I originally intended these only for personal devotion and benefit, I realized that they might also be encouraging and JonathanEdwardsBlankBibleProbsedifying for others. So I thought that I would begin to share some of them, beginning with the book of Psalms. To keep these posts a bit shorter, I will split them up (for now) into 365 sections, one for every day. I won’t be posting them every day for reasons of time, but Lord willing at then end I will have written the equivalent of 365 days of devotional reflections on the psalms. They are written in more of a “commentary”, verse-by-verse form, but they are certainly not intended to be a commentary, but just my own personal reflections on these passages at a certain point in my walk with the Lord. If you find them helpful, then praise the Lord! If not, then have patience with me as I no doubt have a lot more to learn and further to go. So with all these preliminary comments, let’s look at the first two verses of Psalm 1 (ESV).

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Psalm 1 is the “gateway” to the entire book of Psalms which could also be entitled “the Bible in miniature”. This psalm, together with the following one, prepares us to understand and practice well all that the psalter has to teach us. Forming an inclusio with Psalm 2 as the introduction to the whole book which follows (indicated in 1:1 and 2:12 by the word “blessed”), the psalter begins by pronouncing a special blessing for those who heed its wisdom and learn from it how to walk the right path of life.

While in v.2 the psalmist will characterize these people in positive terms, here in v.1 he describes them by means of three negations that trace the gradual progression (or better, descent) of those who, by contrast, succumb to the influence of the wicked and end up becoming wicked themselves. First, they open their ears to the wicked’s counsel (to walk), then they start to follow and imitate their lifestyle (to stand in their way), and finally they join together with them as one of them (to sit in their seat).

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

In contrast to those who meditate on the “counsel” of the wicked, the righteous (i.e. the “blessed”) are distinguished by their constant meditation, day and night, on the “counsel” (i.e. the torah, “law”) of the Lord, the word of his instruction. Such meditation is fruit not of duty but of delight. That in which we find our greatest delight is that to which we will dedicate ourselves day and night. Thus, the righteous who are blessed of the Lord are marked primarily by their delight in the word of God, and for this reason they walk, then stand, and then sit in the presence of God rather than in the company of the wicked.

Centuries after the writing of this psalm, the apostle John would identify Jesus Christ as the “Word” of God in the definitive sense, insofar as he was not simply the word about God but the Word that was God (Jn. 1:1). The greatest and perfect revelation of God is therefore Jesus, behind whose back there is hidden no other God. This is why we read Jesus declaring: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (Jn. 5:39). In other words, we cannot gain any benefit from the words of Scripture except that we meditate through them on the one Word of which they speak. In reality, it is in this Word that the blessed find their supreme delight, those who consider all things “loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

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The Answer is More Certain than Our Prayer: Encouragement to Pray from Question 129 of the Heidelberg Catechism (with commentary by Karl Barth)

Heidelberg Catechism 129

Q. What does the word “Amen” signify?

A. “Amen” signifies, it shall truly and certainly be: for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God, than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of him

[W]e must begin with the end, that is, we must first consider the answer to prayer. We may be surprised at this, for, from a logical standpoint, we should ask first, “What is prayer?” And only afterward, “Do we receive an answer when we pray?” Now for the Reformers the basic and vital point is this certitude: God does answer prayer. That is the first thing we must know. Calvin says it explicitly: We obtain what we request. Prayer is grounded upon this assurance. Let us approach the subject from the given fact that God prayeranswers. God is not deaf, but listens; more than that, he acts. God does not act in the same way whether we pray for not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence. This is what the word “answer” means.

In Question 129 of the Heidelberg Catechism it is stated that the answer to our prayer is more certain than our awareness of the things that we request. It seems there is nothing more sure than the feeling of our desires, but this Catechism says that God’s answer is still more certain. We too must have this inward assurance. Perhaps we doubt the sincerity of our prayer and the worth of our request. But one thing is beyond doubt: it is the answer that God gives. Our prayers our weak and poor. Nevertheless, what matters is not that our prayers be forceful, but that God listens to them. That is why we pray….

Let our prayer not be offered according to our good pleasure; otherwise there would be then on our part inordinate desires. Let it be patterned after the rule [the Lord’s prayer] given by the One who knows our needs better than we ourselves. God has directed us first to submit ourselves to him in order that we may present our requests. So that we may conform to this order, we must eliminate in our prayers all questions like this: Does God listen to us? On this point Calvin is categorical: “Such a prayer is not a prayer.” Doubt is not permitted, for it goes without saying that we shall be heard. Even before we pray we must assume the attitude of someone who has been heart….

“Amen.” It is enough to recall what Luther and the Heidelberg Catechism tell us about this. Luther affirms that it is a good thing to say “Amen”! In other words, it is a good thing to learn not to doubt when we pray, but to believe, because “Amen” means, “So be it.” Prayer is not an undertaking left to chance, a trip into the blue. It must end as it has begun, with conviction: Yes, may it be so! On its side, the Heidelberg Catechism declares that “Amen” means that the certainty of the divine response is greater than the certainty we feel within ourselves of our needs and desires. The most certain element of our prayer is not our requests, but what comes from God: his response.

[Karl Barth, Prayer, 50th Anniversary Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002). 13, 19-20, 65-66.]