Scripture: O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:17-18 ESV
Observation: Many ancient manuscripts combine this psalm of David with that of Psalm 70. Why? Because Psalm 70 serves to introduce David’s more extensive plea for deliverance found in Psalm 71. And both follow a typical chiastic structure of bookends to a climactic midpoint. In Psalm 71, as suggested by Theologian W.A. VanGemeren, below we see the wax and wane of its chiastic form:
At the psalm’s pivotal midpoint (verses 9-18), David petitions the Lord to stay by his side and rescue him from his enemies who falsely accuse him. He then declares that his hope is in the Lord alone and that he will keep on praising his Maker and tell others of his righteous acts of salvation. Finally, David reminds God of how he taught David from his youth and again implores the Lord to remain steadfast and not forsake him in his old age (verse 17 above). And for what purpose, to rescue David from his enemies? Partly, but also that he might declare how Yahweh exercises might and power on behalf of future generations (verse 18 above).
Takeaway: David provides a blueprint for seeking the Lord in prayer when under attack, regardless of age. How so? First, for his glory and our benefit, we declare confidence in our Lord’s might and power that leads us to praise him and give thanks. Next, we recount how our Father has rescued us in past conflicts and candidly ask him to save us from our present enemies (not just people but from those sins that beset us). Then, we petition the Lord to protect us and restore our souls. Lastly, we retrace our progression of thought and recount past ways he has intervened, and reaffirm our confidence in him. And like David, we vow to tell the next generation of our all-powerful God who loves and cares for us.
The benefit of this form of empowering prayer is that it focuses on God and others rather than our problem: seeking to bring glory to our Father and bless future generations. When we take this approach and maintain an upward and forward focus, we will quickly regain our composure and appropriate his peace—enabling us to get on with the mission that lies ahead.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your strong arm of salvation in Christ that empowers us to press through enemy attacks and focus on the mission. Would you please help us resist obsessing over the conflict and instead refocus upward (recounting your love and care for us) and forward (declaring your goodness to the next generation)? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling