O Lord, hear my prayer; in Your truth give heed to my supplication! In Your righteousness, hear me! And enter not into judgment with Your servant; for no one living is righteous in Your sight. (Psalm 143)
The Psalter is often called the prayer book of the Church. Early generations of Christians used the Psalms their daily prayers. This of course created a need to interpret the Psalms because there are potions of them which are hard to understand, a few of them even seem morally offensive, some which seem to have their meaning in past events and thus not be relevant, and some seem clearly to refer only to Christ. One has to think about whose voice is represented by the words for sometimes they are God’s voice, sometimes the Psalmist’s, sometimes Christ’s, and sometimes mine.
Psalm 143 (above) certainly can be the prayer of any person. Any human being can approach God and ask God to listen to his/her prayer. The Prodigal Son in the pigsty and the Wise Thief on the cross give witness to this – one doesn’t have to be a sinless saint in order to want God’s help. God says of His Temple: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations‘ (Mark 11:17). God wants every human to call upon His Name and even provided a place in Jerusalem for all to pray to Him.
In Psalm 143, I pray to God as a sinner asking God not to judge me. I make no excuse for my sin and don’t try to hold up a list of good things I’ve done. I humble myself and ask God’s mercy and forgiveness. Psalm 70 has similar sentiments expressed in it.
O God, come to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! O God, come to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who wish me evil! Let them be turned back in shame who jeer at me, “Aha, Aha!” May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay! (emphases added)
In Psalm 70, we pray with the saints that all who seek God – anyone who seeks God – may rejoice and be glad in God. We pray that any and all who turn to God in prayer may come to rejoice in the Lord. We wish this even for sinners, non-Christians and even for agnostics or the unrighteous. We pray with the Church in asking God to bless the good intentions of those who call upon God even if their lives are a mess. As Jesus taught His disciples, at least in Luke’s Gospel, when they wanted to stop those who were not disciples from invoking Jesus’ name: “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” We are reminded in one of the prayers of the hours of our Church that it is God who calls everyone to salvation:
Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour are worshiped and glorified in heaven and on earth; long-suffering, generous in mercy, and rich in compassion; loving to the righteous and merciful to the sinner; You call all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come…
God calls all to salvation and we pray that anyone who might call upon God will be blessed and granted joy. In this, we each have to be like the great Prophet Moses who pleaded with God not to save him (Moses) if God was going to damn the other Israelites who had sinned against God.
On the morrow Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (Exodus 32:30-32)
Moses in his holiness says, if you don’t save them don’t save me. Maybe that is the attitude we have to have with all strangers and sinners who come into our parishes. We should be glad that they wish to join us in prayer, that they want to call upon the Name of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). By uniting our salvation to theirs, we become holy like Moses, seeking not our personal salvation but the salvation of any and all who are willing to pray to God with us. “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you” (Psalm 86:5). AND “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the LORD shall be delivered… (Joel 2:32)
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. (Romans 10:12)
This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3)