AN OASIS IN THE DESERT
The following prayer was offered by Joseph Parker before he began a sermon on the subject of “High Resolves.” They print his prayers most of the time before his sermons. This prayer is taken from the little three volume set on “Studies In Texts” by Baker. If he were alive today, and I pastored a church, I would have him come just to pray publicly!
PRAYER: “ALMIGHTY GOD, thou knowest our frame, thou rememberest that it is but dust. We are a wind, which cometh for a little time and then passeth away. Thou hast put breath in our nostrils; there is none that hath life abiding in himself. In thee we live and move and have our being. When our strength doth waste by the way, thou callest upon us to wait upon God, that our strength may be renewed. If so be we tarry at thine altar and wait with all childlike patience and trust at thy gate, even youths shall faint and be weary and young men shall utterly fall, but we shall renew our strength, we shall have resting upon us the very power of God. Thou knowest the anxiety of our life, the cares which beset us, all the occupations which engross our attention and exhaust our energy. Thou knowest how oftentimes we are afflicted by the disappointments of a mocking world; how we are promised great things, and how the promises turn to nothingness; how we lean upon Egypt as upon a staff, and how it doth break and pierce the hand that trusted it. We rejoice in thee, and above all things to be able to draw nigh unto the living God, to draw water out of the wells of salvation, to renew our strength in religious meditation and saintly worship! Now that we have gathered for one purpose, do thou graciously meet us; lead us into the green pastures, conduct us by the still waters. We bless thee for the Rock that is higher than we. We thank thee for the shadow in the time of burning and heat and dazzling light. We flee unto thee as a covert from the storm. Thou art our tower and strong defense, our shield and buckler, our song, our strength, our infinite sufficiency! We have done the things we ought not to have done. God be merciful unto us sinners! Visit us not in wrath. Speak to us with all the condescension of unutterable mercy, and gather us again. We have lost ourselves: do thou light the house, sweep, and seek diligently until thou dost find us! May our whole nature be brought back again to the fountain of life! May our peace be complete in the rest of God! Forgive our sins, because of the work of Jesus Christ. “Through this man has been preached unto us the forgiveness of sins.” May we, having heard the joyful sound with the outward ear, hear it with the ear of the soul, and be glad under the spell of its music! May we know the meaning of the mystery of Gods pardon extended to men who have forfeited their life and their destiny by reason of committing sin! Now be with us; give us some sense of the rest that abideth for weary pilgrims in Christ in the land that is afar off. Give us some hint of the unutterable peace which we shall enjoy when we have escaped this sphere of discipline and temptation, and are set in our Father's house on high! To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be the kingdom and the power and glory, world without end! Amen.”
Psalm 71:3 says, “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.”
I woke up this morning at 2:30 A.M., wide awake. When I looked at the clock beside my bed, it looked like it was ten minutes after six! Well, I got up and made my way to the kitchen where I get ice tea to sip on while I read in the psalms and a message or two by a preacher who sits on the shelves of my library, and I discovered it was two-thirty. Well, it was too late. I was really awake by this time. So at 8:30 A.M., I have spent several hours in meditation and prayer. I feel like Satan has me in an iron tank so that I can receive nothing from God or get anything through to Him. Have you ever had that happen? Well, I thought it might be good for you to know that you are not the only one that happens to. I realize I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies, no matter how I feel down here. I also know that my feet are on earth. Sometime as I am seated in the heavenlies, I feel like an eighteen wheeler is sitting on one of my feet!
The Psalmist says to the LORD, “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort. . .” This request suggests that the Psalmist is on shaky ground and his life is possibly being threatened by an adversary. He realizes the strength of his enemy. We see this in the words “Be thou my STRONG habitation.” The word “strong”comes from a word that refers to boulders or formations of stone and material which composes mountains.” It is like a cave hewn out of a gigantic stone formation. You could get in this cave and be safe from the storm of an attacking enemy. Satan is an enemy and he is on the prowl for unsuspecting Christians that he may devour. But if God is our “strong habitation,” he is helpless to do us harm. The only harm he can do is to make us afraid with his growl. Someone has said, “Fear is confidence in your enemy.” I have absolutely no confidence in my enemy. Though sometimes God allows me to feel the enemy’s presence and sense his strength so that I am cast upon Him and His protection by faith totally apart from feeling.
The words “whereunto I may continually resort” are very suggestive. The word “whereunto” suggest the PLACE. Here is the “strong habitation” that is open to me. I can go there. I can resort there for rest and safety. The word “continually” suggest that “my enemy is constantly hounding me. He is continually after me. He never lets up.” There are times when the Psalmist must retire into a safe place. It is like an oasis in the desert. There he can get refreshment. Strength must be regained at times. Do you know any tired Christians? The iron in their soul seems to have turned into some kind of soft metal so that they are about to bend. They do not want to be a “reed shaken by the wind,” but if they are to continue to stand against adverse winds of Satan, there must be a “strong habitation” to which they can “resort” for refreshment and strength. One cannot rest and be refreshed, if he cannot have a place in which he can cease to worry. The Psalmist is asking God to be such a place for him.
The Psalmist says, “Thou hast given commandment to save me.” Here we have the Psalmist reminding God of His promise. He says, “Thou has given commandment.” God you have given orders. He is reckoning upon the WORD while the enemy knocks at his door. The Psalmist is definitely in a tight. He is crying out. It seems there is no protection. But he knows there is because he says, “Thou has given commandment.” Jesus said to Peter, when they were on a storm tossed sea, “Come” and the strength of that command held Peter up on the water! Jesus cried with a loud voice at mouth of the cave in which his friend Lazarus had been buried four days before, and the strength of that command sent death fleeing like a coward, and Lazarus appeared in the sight of all, very much alive with the need of help to untie the grave clothes that had him bound. The Psalmist knew God had commanded. He knew that even though things were looking bad, they were not as bad as they looked. Because God had commanded, he had all the reason necessary to trust. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
The words, “For thou art my rock and my fortress” are the declaration of assurance in the midst of threatening times. We see his need expressed in his request in the words “Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort. We see his faith in God’s promises in the words “Thou has given commandment to save me.” Then last we have his assurance in the words, “For thou art my rock and my fortress.” It is not “be thou” as in the first part of the verse, but, “thou art” which is his declaration of faith in the faithfulness of God to keep His promise.
This verse is not only a fortress in which we can resort but it is also an oasis in which we can rest securely and regain our strength.
God bless each of you.