Torchbearers for Christ
Monday, December 10, 2018
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The prayer of the destitute

In Psalm 102:17 we read, “He will regard the prayer of the destitute and not despise their prayer”.

How are we to understand what it means to be destitute? The word means to be poor, stripped of everything, impoverished, bankrupt. It is most applicable to sinners pleading with God for mercy, but also to the people of God themselves, destitute of everything, like self-righteousness and merit, feeling they have nothing in themselves; they are undeserving and wholly dependent upon the mercy of God. It is most significant that the Lord Jesus began His immortal sermon on the mount with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. He pronounced happiness and blessing on the spiritually bankrupt.

In both Old and New Testaments, we find godly men approaching God with this attitude of spiritual poverty. In Genesis 32:10 we read of Jacob, when expressing his gratitude to God for His kindness, saying “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which you have shown your servant”. Throughout the Psalms, we read of David declaring his spiritual destitution, saying “But I am poor and needy, make haste to me O God, you are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:5), and Psalm 34:6 reads “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles”.

In the New Testament in 1 Timothy 1:15, we read how the once rebellious Saul, now the saintly, spiritual giant Paul, describes himself as “the worst of sinners.” In Ephesians 3:8 he writes that he is “less than the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he says that he is “not fit to be an apostle”. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:11 “ nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing” and in 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God”. Surely, this self-effacing attitude is a sign of healthy spiritual poverty and dependence on God’s mercies.

We remember the story of the centurion whose servant was dying and how he sent elders of the Jews, pleading with Jesus to come and heal his servant. The elders told Jesus that the centurion was a worthy man and so Jesus went with them. As they neared the house, the centurion sent friends to Jesus saying, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; therefore I did not think myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed” (Luke 7:1-9). Jesus commended this man’s attitude, his faith and his humility. He was truly spiritually destitute and Jesus responded to his need.

As opposed to this attitude of spiritual poverty, Jesus told us a story of two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee approached God in a spirit of pride, self-sufficiency and contempt for others, especially the tax collector. On the other hand, we read “the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’”. Jesus then said, “I tell you this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted:. God heard the “prayer of the destitute”.

What does God want us to learn regarding “the prayer of the destitute and not despising their prayer”? Among other things, it teaches us that God responds to an attitude of humility and brokenness. In spite of our unworthiness and failings, the attitude of our own insufficiency and destitution will assure us that God will always hear and help.

This article was written by Pastor Geoffrey Davies. He is a frequent contributor to this column. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he pastored a church for over twenty-five years.  Since 1983 he has travelled widely, continuing his ministry of encouragement and Bible teaching.  

 Click here for Previous Messages from Pastor Geoffrey Davies.