Listen to my prayer, Lord!
Because of your faithfulness, hear my requests for mercy!
Because of your righteousness, answer me!
Please don’t bring your servant to judgment,
because no living thing is righteous before you.
The enemy is chasing me,
crushing my life in the dirt,
forcing me to live in the dark
like those who’ve been dead forever.
My spirit is weak inside me—
inside, my mind is numb.
I remember the days long past;
I meditate on all your deeds;
I contemplate your handiwork.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you.
Answer me, Lord—and quickly! My breath is fading.
Don’t hide your face from me
or I’ll be like those going down to the pit!
Tell me all about your faithful love come morning time,
because I trust you.
Show me the way I should go,
because I offer my life up to you.
Deliver me from my enemies, Lord!
I seek protection from you.
Teach me to do what pleases you,
because you are my God.
Guide me by your good spirit
into good land.
Make me live again, Lord, for your name’s sake.
Bring me out of distress because of your righteousness.
Wipe out my enemies because of your faithful love.
Destroy everyone who attacks me,
because I am your servant. (Common English Bible)
Many Westerners tend to think about sin as bad individual actions which are quite personal. However, sin is much bigger than that. Primarily, sin is a force, a power in this universe which weighs on every molecule within it. None of us can escape having to deal with it.
For persons like the psalmist, they strive to be good and live a just life, yet they are continually dogged by others who have given into the “dark side.” The wicked discern the force of sin in the world, and then decide to move with it – believing that good guys finish last.
Yet, there is another powerful force in the universe – and it’s a greater power than sin.
Everywhere we look, we see a bad spirit. And that sinful spirit is behind the injustice, oppression, war, conflict, ignorance, and avarice which exists in every nation, community, and even home. Entrenched opinions, yelling at each other, the refusal to consider evidence, and narrow thinking have permeated our societies and pitted people against one another.
This evil spirit of the age is captured in the Apostle Paul’s words as he reflected on this and other psalms:
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:10-20, NIV)
The psalmist doesn’t want to be a part of the sinful force and the bad spirit. He, instead, knows that sometimes he’s part of the problem, along with being a victim of sin, and thus, knows he needs deliverance from this awful power.
Promises to do better and personal willpower won’t cut it, when it comes to changing a life and a society. Rather, we must tap into a good spirit, which is ultimately, the Spirit.
Even though all have been both victim and victimizer, and fall short of God’s glory, all are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
Once we were blocked from prayer because of obstacles existing unaware among us and within us. But now we see the world for how it’s been touched by foulness and degradation, so we pray.
The spirit of the age will fail us. Our own spirit will be fickle. God’s Spirit, however, is continually living and active with the force of grace and mercy.
In our fear, it’s okay, even good, to flee from evil. Yet, we must complete the process by not only fleeing from the bad spirit, but also fleeing to God’s Spirit.
Prayer, then, becomes our lifeline. It’s our connection to what is right, just, and good. In Christianity, the Spirit is the one who conforms us to the glory of God and the image of Jesus. The Spirit is our Teacher, Guide, and Advocate, keeping us on God’s good path.
We need to live according to the Spirit – which is a continual journey of removing obstacles to faith and allowing God’s good gifts to awaken within us.
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are contrary to each other, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? (Galatians 5:16-18, MSG)
Yes, sin is a powerful force, manifesting itself in a host of bad spirits all around us. But grace is greater than all sin, and God’s good Spirit shall overwhelm and overcome all evil.
Visit this place, O Lord, we pray, and drive far from it the snares of the enemy; may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace, and may your blessing be always upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.