The Church of God prays for two things here, with an end goal in view: Save us; Gather us from among the heathen Gentiles; to this end: that we might give thanks to Thy name and triumph in Thy praise.
We are heathen Gentiles by birth, by nature and by practice (Eph. 2:2-3). But we have been taught by God the Father that our salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:1-4). We are not indifferent in this matter. We are burdened by sin and its consequences. Our deadly enemy is strong, and we are without strength against it and without hope in ourselves (Rom. 3:9-20; 5:6-10). Yet we have the words of Christ in the Gospel. It is His will to save His people. Salvation is His work. And He has issued His call to all who labor and are heavy laden to come to Him and be saved (Matt. 11:28-30; Isaiah 45:22). Therefore, with all of His people, we pray: “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen.”
Do you ever tire of calling to your faithful Savior and God, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save you from your sins (Matt. 1:21; Rom. 6:14; 1 John 1:7-10; Jude 1:25)? May this heart and these lips of mine never cease to call upon Him as long as life remains in my body!
We pray to be saved and we pray to be gathered. Our coming is the effect of His gathering. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” We therefore say, “O LORD our God, gather us from among the heathen!” Gathering is the work of Christ (Jonah 2:9). The sheep of Christ hear His voice. They come when He calls by His Spirit in the Gospel (2 Cor. 3:6; John 6:63; 10:9; Eph. 2:4-ff). They come in faith and they follow in believing. We hear Him who is meek and lowly. We hear His call in the Gospel to come to Him, and thus coming, to find rest. His call is the sweetest music ever heard to all who labor and are heavy laden by sin. Our prayer goes up to Him who thus sheds His abundant grace on us, “Gather us from among the heathen!” O Lord, bring me to yourself. Bring us. Make yourself known. Cause us to abide fast by thy maidens, and not go into another field, but to wait for the Bread of Life that our Lord gives: His broken body and poured out blood, to be believed by ruined, lost sinners, with every saint, as all in our salvation (Ruth 2:8; John 6:33,35,51,53-54; 1 Tim. 1:15).
“To give thanks to thy holy name and to triumph in thy praise.” Our LORD must save us. He must gather us. It is His work alone. Yes, by nature we are heathen (Rom. 8:6-8). But by electing love, by distinguishing grace, we were adopted as sons of God the Father before time began, and in time, redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-7)! He has chosen us in Christ to be holy and without blame before Him in love. He justified, sanctified and perfected us in Christ (Eph. 1:3-6; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 10:10,14). We were lost in Adam, ruined in ourselves. But He preserved us before in Christ Jesus (Jude 1:1; Num. 23:21). Despite this great grace, we are yet unable to utter a word of heart praise without that same grace given to us that saved us and gathered us. It is only the grace of Christ known in the heart that puts praise to Christ on our lips. It is grace that causes us to triumph in Christ (Rom. 6:14,17). It was for this purpose that we were redeemed: to the praise of the glory of the grace of our God and Father, His grace in Jesus Christ our Lord (Eph. 1:6,12,14,23).