Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. — Psalm 118: 25
We must ask God for His help.
Right in the middle of a psalm of praise and thanks we find a cry for God’s help. This attests to the recognition: we are dependent on God! If our lives are to succeed, we will need God’s help and blessing!
Upon whom do we call in our prayers?
We call upon the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Israel prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had delivered them from slavery.
The early Christians learned that they could also ask for help from Jesus (Acts 7: 59–60).
Today we pray to the eternal and triune God. Before Jesus brought His sacrifice on the cross, He promised the disciples another Helper (John 14: 16, 26). This Helper, the Holy Spirit, is likewise God, and He too is worshipped! He bestows salvation and blessing. Through the activity of the Holy Spirit
- We learn the will of God in the words of the sermon.
- The effect of the sacraments comes into being.
- The powers imparted in acts of blessing are stirred up.
It is the task of the officiant and the entire congregation to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit. This is a significant contribution to the success of the divine services.
What do we pray for?
Above all we pray for that which serves to our salvation.
Many pray to God to protect them from earthly needs. A simple look at reality shows us that believers suffer from exactly the same kinds of cares as unbelievers. As regards their earthly lives, they do not receive any preferential treatment from God—nor does God cause them to suffer any particular disadvantages either. They share the fate of the people around them. However, believers draw comfort and strength from the knowledge that God is with them and that He will never abandon them!
The Lord’s Prayer is rich in worship and praise. Only one sentence involves earthly matters, namely the one pertaining to our daily bread. The remainder of the prayer’s supplications relate to salvation, specifically the coming of the kingdom of God, the forgiveness of sins, protection in temptation, and deliverance from evil.
This is an example for our collective prayer as a congregation. The focus is on worship and the plea for our salvation—as well as the salvation of all other people.
How does the blessing of God manifest itself?
The blessing of God shows itself in that we are able to pass it along to others.
Jacob is a familiar example of a believer who wrestled for the blessing of God (Genesis 32: 25–32). This blessing did not consist of physical integrity and well-being (Jacob walked with a limp from then on) or of his family being preserved from suffering (for example, Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph, was sold into slavery by his brothers).
The power of the blessing he had received was manifest in the fact that Jacob was able to pass this blessing along to others. And yet, even when blessing others, he was aware that he could not do so by his own strength, and that he needed the help of God (Genesis 49: 18).
The blessing which we have received through word and sacrament enables us to spread the gospel: parents to children, Christians to the unbaptized, ministers to congregations. This is the mission that has been set for us. Let us rise to the task! God is glad to help and will grant us success!
When Christ returns, the bridalcongregation will receive the fullness of salvation. That iswhy it already cries out to Christ in worship today, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118: 26).
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on 21 August 2016 at Midrand Congregation.