The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. – Psalm 145:18-21 ESV
The last part of this prayer of David might seem a bit far fetched or to be over-promising just a bit. At least, when it comes to our own lives, it may feel as if what David says has not been our experience. There have been plenty of times in my life when it has seemed as if God was not near when I called on Him. I have also had to very real experience of not having all of my desires fulfilled. So either I have not been calling on Him in truth or I must not fear Him, or perhaps both. Why is it that I don’t always feel as if God hears my cry and saves me? Am I the problem? I think it’s safe to say that the problem is not with God, So what’s going on here? What is David telling us about God?
There is a very real sense in which our experiences with God may leave us feeling as if He doesn’t hear or answer. We may believe that our cries for help fall on deaf ears and that our circumstances don’t always turn out for the best. But David would have us know that God is always near. He always hears. He always preserves those who love Him. But how God does so may not coincide with our own expectations. We rarely go to God without some well-thought-out idea of what we want Him to do for us. In fact, most of our prayers consist of clear-cut instructions for God, telling Him exactly what it is we want Him to do and when we want Him to do it. If we have a bone to pick with God, it is because He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we desire. But His job is to do His will, not ours. He knows what is best for us. Paul gives us some timeless counsel: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). It is perfectly okay to tell God what we need. It is even okay to tell Him what we want. But at that point, we have to let go of our wishes and come to grips with the fact that His will may not be the same as our wish. He may choose to do something different altogether. And if His answer comes back in a different form or on a different schedule, it DOES NOT mean He is not near or that He does not hear.
A big part of this Psalm has to do with praise for God. As believers we tend to put far more emphasis on petition. We are all about what we can get from God, but fail to give as much priority to giving to God what He so richly deserves: Our praise. David even wraps up his prayer with the promise, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord”. Regardless of how God answers, David will praise Him. No matter the difference in God’s timing compared to David’s, he will still praise God. Why? Because God is near. Because God cares. Because God will ultimately do exactly what should be done. Regardless of whether we agree with Him or not. We must always remember that God’s schedule is based on an eternal timeline, not a temporal one. We live in the hear-and-now. He exists in timeless eternity. We have a hard time looking past today. He knows the future and has our eternal destiny already worked out in advance. Again, Paul is the one to remind us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). If we had our way, we would pray ourselves out of all our troubles. We would ask God to remove all our pain and problems. We would ask for a trial-free existence. And the truth is, that day is coming, but it is reserved for our future. It will come when God has decided to put an end to sin and death once and for all. We have to develop an eternal perspective and keep our eyes focused on what is to come. God will one day remove all pain, sorrow, sin, hatred, and sickness. In the meantime, we must remember that He is near, that He cares, that He rescues, that He preserve and protects, and that He deserves our praise and thanksgiving. So let all flesh bless His name forever and ever.