In the Pit...Waiting: A service based on Psalm 40

My Song of Deliverance

The Gathering of the People for Worship

Organ Prelude

"Invocation in A Minor" [Guilmant]

"Air" [Handel]

Introduction to the Service

This Lenten service is based on Psalm 40, a psalm that traces a difficult experience of David. We don't know the exact situation that led to this psalm, but it was clearly a time of waiting in prayer, of doubt, anxiety, uncertainty . . . and then of being delivered. Psalm 40 celebrates that deliverance.

In the psalm David acknowledges his continuing need for God's help. He discovers what many of us have discovered: that believers often go through one trial or struggle only to face another one. Psalm 40 gives us words to use in our prayers when we are going through our own struggles, spiritual or otherwise.

But this is also a psalm of celebration. David reminds us of many reasons for praising and thanking our God, being grateful for God's help, and giving a testimony of praise. It's a psalm that leads us to offer our lives in service to our God.

Call to Worship "Wait on the Lord"


Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.


Hymn "I Waited for the Lord Most High," st. 1-3
[PsH 71 (1959/1976 ed.), RL 100 TH 622]

Reading: God's Rescue from the Pit

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
—Psalm 40:1-3, NRSV

Duet "I Waited for the Lord" [Mendelssohn]

Reading: Happiness for Those who Trust

Happy are those who make
the LORD their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.
—Psalm 40:4-5

Hymn "Rejoice, O Pure in Heart"
[PsH 561, PH 145, TH 604]

My Offering of Thanksgiving

Reading: A Dedicated Servant

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, "Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."
—Psalm 40:6-8

Songs of Praise

"I Waited Patiently for God"
[PsH 40 (1987 edition)]

st. 1—solo voice
st. 2—ensemble

"Come, All You People, Praise Our God"
[PsH 242]

"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"
[PsH 384, PH 100, 101, RL 292-3, TH 252]

st. 1—all
st. 2—women
st. 3—men
st. 4—all

Concession of Faith

What must you know to live and die in the joy of Christian comfort?

Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.


Offertory "With What Shall I Come Before the Lord?" (Micah 6:6-8) [John Ness Beck]

Hymn (As the offerings are brought forward) "Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord," st. 1,5
[PsH 309]

Proclamation of the Word

Reading: Glad News of Deliverance

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your
faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your
faithfulness from the great congregation.
—Psalm 40:9-10

Sermon In the Pit... Waiting

Hymn "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
[PsH 501, PH 466, RL 362-3, TH 164]

My Continuing Urgent Prayer

Reading: Because of My Iniquities

Do not, O LORD, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.
For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.
—Psalm 40:11-12

Prayer of Confession (for personal sins, praying silently)

Ensemble "Wait on the Lord" (see p. 9)

Prayer of Confession (for corporate sins of God's people)

Please join in the prayer of Daniel, who was keenly aware of the sins committed by the people of God in his own time. Pray on behalf of the church, often divided, lacking in truth, offering up empty hearts and deeds. Pray for God's mercy in these words borrowed from this great statesman / prophet:

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets who spoke in your name.

Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All [of us] have transgressed your law and turned away refusing to obey you. All this has come upon us, yet we have not sought the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from your city your holy hill.
[from Daniel 9:4-16]

Ensemble "Wait on tire Lord" (see p. 9)

Reading: Because of My Enemies

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me;
O LORD, make haste to help me.
Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who desire my hurt.
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, "Aha, Aha!"
—Psalm 40:13-15

Hymn "Before Thy People I Confess," st. 1
[PSH (1959/1976 ed.) 72]

Prayer, as begun by first prayer leader: "Help us, O God, to face temptations..."

[Three different prayer leaders are given the first lute of their prayer to set the theme. Then each composes his or her own prayer.]

Quartet "Before Thy People I Confess," st. 2
[PsH (l959/1976 ed.) 72]

Prayer, as begun by second prayer leader: "Give us victory over those who would destroy our families ...

Quartet "Before Thy People I Confess," st. 4
[PsH (1959/1976 ed) 72]

Prayer, as begun by third prayer leader: "Lord, give us courage to face the enemies of your cross ...

All: "Before Thy People I Confess," st. 5
[PsH (1959/1976 ed) 72]

Reading: Tor Help Without Delay

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually "Great is the LORD!"
As for me, I am poor arid needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.

You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.
—Psalm 40:16-17

Ensemble "As the Deer" [Martin Nystrom]


Our ever-present God, we can hardly wait for your help. Some of us are desperate. We love you, and we want your name to be honored. We fear that our enemies will hinder us or get in our way—or we may be our own worst enemies. Lord, help us to be glad, to rejoice with the psalmist, to have this new song in our hearts, to have our feet on the solid rock. Lord, think of us, remember us when you come into your kingdom. You are our help and our deliverer. O our God, do not delay. We long for your presence, your love, your favor, your grace. Hear us through your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Hymn "Abide with Me"
[PsH 442, PH 543, RL 440, TH 402]

st. 1 and 2—solo
st. 3—all
st. 4—solo


st. 5—all

Postlude "How Firm a Foundation"

Reformed Worship 34 © December 1994, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.