# 93 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 20 & 21. Prayer: Not wishful optimism but realistic faith.

Blaiklock calls psalm 20 “a fine, rich hymn, full of courage, but courage born of faith.” (see references # 37)

 Psalm 20

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

Psalm 20 is an unusual psalm as compared to most others in the Psalter. It is called a Royal Psalm and is basically a prayer for the king (possibly just before he is going out to battle against an enemy).

A prayer that the Lord would:

  • answer the King’s prayers, particularly in a crisis and protect him when in danger (verse 1)
  • send help/support from heaven when he needs it (verse 2)
  • find the King’s sacrifices and offerings acceptable (verse 3)
  • give to him the desires of his heart and enable him to be successful (verse 4)
  • in granting all the Kings requests, cause his people to shout for joy at answered prayer (verse 5)

The praying one then changes course in his prayer. He turns from petition for the King to a prayer of affirmation (“now this I know”) that his God does answer prayer (verse 6b) and is the One who gives the ultimate victory (verse 6a).

Then that great verse (7) we considered last time about those who trust in “the weapons of the world”, unlike the people of God who “have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4), And that divine power is “in the name of the Lord our God”.

He continues, (in verse 8) to inform us of the fate of those who “trust in chariots” as compared to the one who trusts in God – “they are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm”.

And in summary he again addresses God and simply prays: “Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call” Amen!

Who says prayer needs to be complicated?

Along time after this psalm was written and this prayer was prayed for the first time, the Apostle Paul wrote to his young disciple the following instructions:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

This still applies to us today and Psalm 20 may be a useful prayer to adapt for the leader(s) of your nation, particularly asking that his/her faith will be in God, that his/her dependence will be on God and that his/her wisdom will come from God.

In summary, Kidner suggests that “the fact that the time of trouble has been made the time of prayer makes the buoyant spirit of verses 6-8 a matter not of wishful optimism but of realistic faith.”  (see references # 29)

And Longman says:

“The battlefield was the original setting for this psalm which confidently asks God for victory in the face of an enemy. Today, the people of God are a spiritual entity (the church), not a nation state with armies and physical enemies that attack it with swords, spears and other physical weapons. Even so, the church and individual Christians are in a battle, ‘not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). Against these enemies, ‘the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world’, but rather we need ‘divine power to demolish strongholds’ (1 Corinthians 10:4). It is in the context of spiritual warfare that Psalm 20 retains its relevance in the life of God’s people today.” (see references # 30)

Thank you, Father, that in your powerful Name we have victory and protection. We are reminded of David when, on that memorable occasion he faced Goliath on the battle field and he said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45) And of the writer of Proverbs 18:10 who declared that “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”. Amen

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