Naked Honesty

“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Ps 116:1). The psalmist’s honesty is naked. “I love the Lord,” he says, “And here is why. He hears me.” There is nothing articulate in this man’s prayers, but God heard them anyway. What an important lesson for us! Our need is not eloquence. When we are desperate for God’s ear we need honesty and simplicity, not some super-spiritual, complex prayer code. God is not offended by our childlike, emotional cries for help. Charles Simeon is correct when he writes, “Prayer does not consist in fluent or eloquent expressions, but in ardent desires of the soul.” That is what we see here. We see the ardent desire of a man who longs for deep fellowship with God. His pronouncement of love is simple: He loves God because God loves him. This is not self-centeredness, but self-abasement. It is the longing of tired eyes of faith that is being tested in the furnace of affliction. Spurgeon writes, “They say that love is blind; but when we love God our affection has its eyes open and can sustain itself with the most rigid logic. We have reason, superabundant reason, for loving the Lord; and so make up an admirable state of mind.” And he knows God loves him because “he has heard [his] voice and [his] pleas for mercy…he inclined his ear to [him]” (vv. 1-2). God’s love for the psalmist is displayed by his listening ear, which prompts a love for God to rise up within the man and lead him to prayer.

Is that why you pray? Is that why I pray? Do we pray regardless of how God may answer? If God were to never answer, or keep his answers always hidden, would you still pray? Would you pray just because he hears? I am not saying God’s answers are not a great incentive to us; indeed they are. But have you had times in your life when God has not answered your prayers? Surely you have. Then what keeps you praying? There must be something more. Do you continue to plod, pursue, and pray because he hears you, and that’s enough for you…today? Will you pray even if you don’t get an answer? Can you say, “I love the LORD, [simply because] he has heard my voice”?

Commentators agree that “voice” refers to sporadic, intermittent vocal declarations to God of our need. At times, that is all our prayers are. Sometimes we can hardly put three words together sensibly, but God still listens. And then there are “supplications,” ongoing, continual pleadings with God. The assurance is clear: God never tires of hearing our spontaneous cries for help or our ongoing, continual pleading for his strength.

Not only does the psalmist have a reason to pray (God hears him), but his reason is reinforced by the Lord turning his hear to listen very closely. The word inclined means bended down. Though we may think our prayers are only feeble attempts to reach up to him, God lowers himself, turns his head towards us, and listens to our cries for help. When my 2-year old son wants to talk to me, I bend down to look into his eyes and listen. So it is with the God of the universe. He stoops down and turns his ear to listen to us when we pray. God, who is unlimited in power, wisdom, and goodness, cares enough to stoop down to our level—turning his ear toward us. If that is not a powerful incentive to prayer then I don’t know what is!

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