Two ways to live—Psalm 1

The Psalms in our Bible are a collection of songs inspired by God, and then kept and used by godly people in Israel.

We don’t find it easy to walk before God—given the troubles and questions that arise in this world. But these God inspired songs provide ways to navigate this difficult territory.

Jesus himself joined his disciples in singing a psalm before heading out to his death (Mark 14:26). These prayers have been treasured, sung and prayed by the whole church for centuries.

So, here’s some comments on various Psalms to help understand what they say.  And then, I’ll ‘pray the Psalm’, using it to guide how we may pray today.

Here’s Psalm 1. Read it first. Then see how we need its counsels now. (The words in italics are the points of reference to the Psalm.)


We all need to work out what will guide our life. Here, the choice is clear. We either live by what God says or by what the world says. And we are told why one is a happy or blessed choice and why the other way perishes.

God’s word is delightful—not a burden. It’s worth thinking about often. Worth living by.

God’s law isn’t just commandments. It’s God’s guide for our relationship with him as we travel towards the future he is making. Think of how the 10 commandments begins. ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery’ (Exod. 20:1).

If we know God loves the world and has sent his Son to us, and that he has paid for our sins and reconciled us to God, we’ve got good reason to think that living with him in his congregation is a good idea.

And it doesn’t take long to realise that doing what God says rather than following our instincts makes for a better life, and a better community, as well as a better future.

Godly people—that is, people who love what God does and says, grow like healthy nourished trees. They are useful and eager.

On the other hand, ungodly people are not believing in, fearing or following their Creator. But they give counsel about how to live, they provide a way to fulfill this advice, and scoff at anything different. It’s easy to want to fit into this world, but we’re being told that it’s not worth the risk.

God sees these ungodly peopleas chaff that blows away in the wind. They will perish. The world may not think about God, but God is thinking about them. This is his world. It works by his rules. He remains kind to all that he’s made (Matt. 5:45). But he’s still in charge and determines what works, and what happens when he is ignored.

This judgement has already begun. People who leave God out are revolving without a centre, striving without the needed power and with nothing sure to aim for. They don’t have a Father (Eph. 2:12). God has decided that everything must revolve around Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10).

How much better to be in a community of the righteous! God knows these people—and in the Bible, this means God is near to them, and helping them. He has chosen them to inherit his future.

So, let’s pray.

Our Father in heaven, the world you have made is warm and close and provides many things we need. But when it turns against you, when it invents its own wisdom, creates its own way and emboldens itself with distain, it becomes cold and distant—even threatening.

Father, enliven us to hear your commands, cherish your ways and trust your counsels. Teach us to see Christ as the Lord who brings us to you, and who will unite everything into the future you have planned.

Thank you for the promise of blessing or happiness when we follow your way. Thank you that you know us and that you make all that we do to prosper. Make us like fruitful trees. Amen.

9—Sharing life with God

The thing that’s unique about us Christians is that we know God. In seeing Jesus, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). We can approach him, love him and make requests.

From the beginning, Satan has sought to undermine this relationship, and Paul has shown us how to deal with his strategies. Now he tells us we’ll need to be praying as well (Ephesians 6:18).

You’ve probably noticed that in this letter of Ephesians, Paul doesn’t just tell us something and assume we know. He prays (1:15-17; 3:14-16). He knows that only God can reveal himself. This is true about every part of our Christian life. We are always needing things that only God can do. So, we need to share in this praying.

Here’s the directions Paul gives us.

First, pray in the Spirit on all occasions!

Prayer is not just closing our eyes and saying prayers. It will include that but it’s more a way of life that’s been opened up to us by the Holy Spirit.

If we check back in this letter, we’ll get some idea of what prayer in the Spirit might look like. The Spirit is giving us a taste of the life God is planning for us (1:13). He’s enabling us to know God as our Father (2:18) and to believe Christ is living in us (3:16). And he showing us we all belong together as God’s people (4:3).

Without this work of the Holy Spirit, we forget who we are and can easily become engrossed—and upset—with all the things going on around us. And then we’re in no mood to pray!

That’s why we shouldn’t grieve the Spirit (4:30). Rather, we should be filled with him (5:18). We are being kept in relationship with our Saviour and our Father by his presence (2 Corinthians 13:14). If we make it our business to enjoy this, it’s not a burden to share our life with God. It’s a relief. It’s a joy.

We need to throw open the windows or our stuffy lives and let some fresh air in. God means us to live by the wind of his Spirit, even while we are living in the messiness of this present life.

I hope this is the way you see prayer. If it isn’t, perhaps you could ask the Lord to show you something new about himself. God is the natural habitat for every human being. A Christian is, simply, someone who is counting on this being true.

Second, use all kinds of prayers! And make all sorts of requests!

Jesus says ‘Pray like this…’ and gives us a pattern for our praying (Matthew 6:9-13). It’s starts with things that are for God’s glory and authority and follows with all the things we are needing—including forgiveness.

So, with this pattern in mind, there’s lots of things we can say in our prayers. The main thing is that we are being real. The almighty God is our Father. He’s the only one who can make a difference. He gives good gifts. And he doesn’t want us to be anxious about ourselves. That’s why we need to trust him with everything we’re concerned about. Everything!

Third, persevere in prayer!

This means keeping on trusting when ‘the heavenlies’ seem unreal, keeping on hoping when nothing seems to be happening and going on loving when it’s not producing any response.

This also means praying whether we feel like it or not. The world tends to live by its feelings. And this makes us weak. If we believe God loves us, that he’s given up his Son for us, that he is interested in what we think and what we want, then we will pray. We don’t have to feel anything. We have to believe.

None of us finds this straight-forward. The idea that some people are special and find it natural to pray and that other are practical and find it hard is just not true. We all have spiritual tardiness (Paul calls it our ‘flesh’). So, we need to encourage each other and keep listening to God’s word.

This perseverance means a lot to God. It shows him that our faith is genuine (1 Peter 1:6-7). And it’s very important for us too. It produces the character that is appropriate to our future life in God’s presence (Romans 5:3-5).

Fourth, pray for all of God’s people!

When we pray for our fellow Christians, we are not just being kind to them. We are helping in the business of God having a company of people who love and serve him.

Paul calls us all ‘saints’—that is, God’s holy people. This doesn’t mean we are perfect. It means we are chosen by God to fulfill his purposes. And God is eager that we live in this way. So, there is plenty for us to pray for!

Looking back over these last few articles, we have seen what God has done to have us strong in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are protected from evil powers because we’ve taken up all that God has done for us in him. We are protected because we’re being shaped by this gospel rather than by the world. We can stand firm because we’re using his weapons—not our own.

And now, by our prayers, we are ready to stand in the days God is giving us on earth.

In one sense, we are never ready to live—not by ourselves. But God has provided all that we need. And he waits to hear our prayers. So, we are always ready.