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Psalm 115:1–8

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (v. 1).

How can we keep prayers for our own needs from becoming selfish? Is that even possible? The book of Psalms would answer yes to the second question. Today’s passage shows us that our supplications can be God-centered.

Psalm 115 does not include a superscription that names its author or the specific circumstances under which it was written. Yet there are clues in the psalm itself that give us an idea of its original setting. Verse 2 asks why the nations should be able to say, “Where is their [Israel’s] God?” and verses 9–11 refer to the Lord as the “help” and “shield” of His people. When we put these things together, it seems evident that the author of this hymn wrote against the backdrop of a need for Israel’s deliverance. At the time of writing, the nations that opposed Israel were asking where He was—they did not see any evidence that Yahweh cared for or could defend His people. And the confidence that God was the nation’s help and shield indicates that the psalm is a cry to the Lord for assistance, for salvation from the enemies of Israel. Essentially, the hymn writer saw his countrymen in a desperate situation and wrote this text as a prayer for deliverance.

But the psalm is not simply a man-centered cry for God saying, “Help me.” Look at verse 1. The request for deliverance is rooted in the psalmist’s desire to see the Lord glorify His own name. He did not want rescue merely for the sake of rescue, but he wrote the hymn in order to call upon God to vindicate Himself, to show that His promises of steadfast love and faithfulness to Israel were not in vain. This is a God-centered way to offer up prayers for our own needs—we ask the Lord to help us in order that He would be glorified. We do not seek our own glory. While we should pray for our everyday necessities, it is important to remember that ultimately, our Creator has met our most important need—our need for salvation—in a manner that glorifies Him alone. In Christ, our God acted to save us entirely by grace so that we would give all the glory for our deliverance to Him. Augustine of Hippo comments, “For ‘Christ died for sinners,’ that men might not seek any glory of their own, but in the Lord’s Name.”

In verses 3–8, we find a comparison of Yahweh to the gods of the nations. Even when the Lord seems to delay His salvation, it is foolish to ask whether He can assist His people. Unlike the false gods, the sovereign Creator revealed in Scripture does whatever He pleases.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Often we present our supplications to the Lord as a list of needs that do not call for His glory to be manifest. Certainly, it is appropriate to pray for our God to satisfy our needs, but our chief reason for asking for His help should be so that others will see His glory as He rescues us. As we ask the Lord to glorify Himself by meeting our needs, our prayers become more God-centered and we pray more effectively, asking the Lord to do only what will bring Him glory in our lives.

For Further Study
  • 1 Chronicles 16:8–36
  • Psalm 79
  • Jeremiah 10
  • Revelation 19:1

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From the December 2015 Issue
Dec 2015 Issue