WORD STUDY – FEIGNED LIPS
Psalm 17:1: .”A Prayer of David. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, [that goeth] not out of feigned lips.”
Do you ever stop to wonder how such private thoughts and prayers ended up being read by millions and millions of people throughout history? The answer in the case of David writing the Psalms is that he intended for his prayers to become public. I mean why does he need to tell God that he is not praying out of feigned lips as God most likely knows better than he if his words are deceitful and why would someone who had such a deep love and understanding for God think that he could get away with speaking deceit to God.
I believe the answer is clearly that his prayer is also a sermon. It is a sermon as relevant for us today as it was back in David’s day. It is a sermon we need to hear over and over because all of us at one time or another are guilty of speaking to God with feigned lips.
The word feigned is miremah from the root word ramah. You will find in your lexicon that it will tell you it means deceitful, subtle, treacherous and fraudulent. It comes from an old Akkadian word ramu which means to be lax or slack. I know what you are thinking, “Why I would never speak a deceitful word to God or pray in a lax manner.” Really? How many times have you been asked to pray in public and you were really careful to choose your words rightly so the brethren would not be disappointed or think you were not holy enough to offer a prayer. How many times have you prayed for something that you did not really mean? Like, “Lord we thank you for this day.” Are you really thankful for that day? Do you have any idea of what your are talking about?” How many times have you glibly said table grace repeating the same prayer over and over that you become lax in your prayer and really give it no thought? How many times have you recited the Lord’s Prayer and never questioned: “Why would God lead me into temptation in the first place?”
In this prayer in Psalms 17 it almost sounds as if David is begging God to hear him, attend to his cry and give ear to his prayer. Do we really have to beg God to listen to us? Does a distressed child climb into its mother’s arms and plead: “You’ve got to hear me, attend to me, give me an ear?” When that mother wraps her arms around her weeping child she is all ears and ready to do whatever it takes to relieve that child’s suffering. However, if the kid is doing this to manipulate and the mother senses the manipulation, odds are the child will not be given an ear, attention or listened to, the child may get a scolding for trying to manipulate.
How many times do we seek to clean up our act when we really need something from God and then we go to Him with our request, thinking now that we have cleaned up our act we are deserving for God to hear us? Are we not using our good works to manipulate God? How many times do we recite meaningless prayers before we eat or go to bed thinking that such rituals will earn God’s attention. All of this is speaking with shapath mireman or feigned lips.
In his prayer, David is preaching a sermon and he is saying to those listening or reading: “If you want God to attend to your cry and give ear to your prayer, then be honest, don’t try to bribe Him with flowery words, don’t try to pray in a manner that will impress the brethren; just pray your heart and if your prayer is right, He will respond. That word right in Hebrew is tsedeq which means righteousness. This is a word used among merchants who had scales and when they balanced out, that is when the grain placed on one end of a scale matched the weight on the other end you had the right amount, that is, you had a tsedeq, a rightness. That is also where the word justice comes from. You ever see that statute of the lady with a blind fold holding a scale. She is unable to see if the evidence on one side of the scale matches the truth on the other side, so a court must decide what is true.
In other words your prayer must be totally honest with God, from your heart and it must be a plea for what is right in God’s eyes. I may pray that God will cause the computer owned by that person who gave me a bad review on my book to blow up. In God’s eyes that may not be a right prayer, a prayer that matches Him and His desires so I cannot expect a positive answer to that prayer.
I recall a story of a young missionary to Papau New Guinea at the start of World War II. She was taken a prisoner to a Japanese POW camp where she suffered tremendous tortures and starvation. At one point she laid dying in her solitary prison cell from disease and hunger. One day she managed to look out of her cell to the compound outside. She saw someone come out of the jungle and slip a banana to a woman. This missionary was so overcome with a desire for a banana that she could almost taste it and smell it. She prayed and asked God for just one banana. Then she began to think, such a prayer request was impossible. Even the guards were starving and if anyone had a banana it would go to the guards and not a prisoner on death row. Aside from that if a guard was caught giving a banana to a prisoner they would be imprisoned and tortured themselves. No it was impossible for her to get a banana and she apologized to God for asking for something that was impossible and for not being grateful for the handful of rice that was given to her as a daily ration.
However, later that day the cell door opened and a guard threw in a stalk of fifty bananas. To the day she died so forth years later, she had no explanation but she does remember pushing the bananas away telling God she did not deserve them for her lack of faith. But then she felt the assurance from God that she asked tsedeq what was just or right and she came to God without shapath mireman or feigned lips.