Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Psalm 86 - Intercessory Worship

Are you holding on to a promise from the Lord, something He has promised you, and it is long in coming? Is your expectation being stretched? Are you getting weary? Are you feeling desperate, or even despairing? Is He not moving according to your time frame? Are you saying, “Why, Lord? Where are you? Where is the answer? What is happening? Why the silence? When will you move and fulfill your promises? 

You have searched your heart for sin. You’ve pleaded. You’ve bargained. You’ve pouted some. You’ve felt sorry for yourself. You’ve gotten scared. It doesn’t take much for panic to seize you. God seems so far away that your prayers seem to fly short of the throne as if you were shooting birdshot at the moon.


If anyone in Scripture did those very things, David did. He had been anointed as the next king of Israel (1 Sam 16). He had killed a giant (1 Sam 17). He had been hailed as a great leader (1 Sam 18:7). But he was not yet king. Instead, he was running for his life from the king he served, King Saul, who hated him in jealousy (1 Sam 18:8).

In Psalm 86, we find a prayer (tephillah) of David. He is desperate for an answer and needs God’s mercy and protection (Psalm 86:1-4). Tephillah means intercession, entreaty, supplication, a hymn, or prayer set to music and sung in worship. This is the most general Hebrew word for prayer and was used in the titles of five Psalms: 17, 86, 90, 102, and 142. (See also Psalm 72:20.) Tephillah is intercessory worship. David sang his prayer for God to be near and hear his cries, for the Lord’s Presence to stay close, for God to deal with his enemies, and for the Lord to come and glorify Himself.

Tephillah is used in other places in the Bible. Habakkuk’s revival prayer is intercessory worship (Hab 3:1). It is a reciprocal, or two-way prayer. Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 when he cleansed the Temple, saying, “My house will be called a house of tephillah (intercessory worship) for all nations (Mark 11:17). All the nations and all the peoples are the subject of intercessory worship, and Christ’s Glory is the object of it (Rev 7:9).

Intercessory worship waits on God. It waits to hear the word of God (Psalm 86:11). It feels the heart of God. It worships before Him who is faithful and loving (Psalm 86:12-13). Intercessory worship acknowledges that He is and will accomplish His purposes on the earth in the response to grateful hearts. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus called on his Father with a hallowed Name and asked that “Your will be done, Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven,” ending with a focus on God’s Kingdom, “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. (Matt 6:9-13).

Intercessory worship is faith in action. We don’t yet see the answer, but we know the character of the One who is forgiving (Psalm 86:5), who is faithful to His Name, to His Glory, and to His Promises (Psalm 86:8-10). Intercessory worship is as simple as singing, “He is Lord,” because it declares the authority of Jesus’ rule over all. Intercessory worship praises God even when the situation does not change immediately, because we know His character, and we trust His purposes (Psalm 86:14-17). And we praise Him for His answer that He will bring in His appointed time.

Adapted from Sylvia Gunter, Prayer Essentials 2.