Theme: An Appeal for God to Listen
In this week’s studies David prays that the Lord would show his justice against all who do evil, even as he asks that the Lord’s blessing would rest upon the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 5:1-12
The first three verses are an appeal for God to listen to the psalmist’s prayer. Many psalms begin in this way, such as Psalm 4, which we just studied last week. Have you ever been stopped in your prayers by doubts about whether you are approaching God rightly? Almost everyone has had doubts like this. If you have, notice what these verses teach us. They teach three things.
1. The spirit in which we should pray. One characteristic of this prayer is its urgency expressed in the imperatives: “give ear,” “consider” and “listen.” They mean that David was not merely going through a prayer routine. He was intensely serious, as all prayer should be. In the New Testament James refers to the case of Elijah who, he says, was “a man just like us.” But “he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17, 18). James says rightly, thinking of Elijah, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v. 16).
A second characteristic of prayer is persistence seen in the repeated phrase “morning by morning” (v. 3). It has the ideas of “as soon as it is morning” and “every morning.” It reminds us of the Lord’s teaching about the unjust judge who did not want to help a poor widow but who eventually gave her justice just to escape her constant petitions. Jesus concluded, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off” (Luke 18:7)? His point was that we are to persist in prayer even if, for reasons unknown to us, the answer of God is delayed. God will not refuse to act forever.
George Mueller, the founder of the great faith orphanages in England in the nineteenth century, saw great answers to prayer even though some of the answers were delayed. When he was quite young he began to pray for two of his friends. He prayed for them every day for more than sixty years. One was converted just before Mueller’s death at what was probably the last preaching service Mueller held. The other was converted within a year of Mueller’s passing. Clearly we ought always to “pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
A third characteristic of this prayer is an expectant spirit, which is how verse 3 ends: “I…wait in expectation.” This means that the psalmist was praying in faith, for, having laid his requests before God, he expected God to answer. As James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt” 1:5, 6).
2. The types of prayers that can be uttered. Most commentators call attention to three types of prayers in these verses: 1) prayer by words; 2) unarticulated prayers, or sighing; and 3) prayer which is a cry. Most often we pray by words. That is, we express ourselves in proper, well- reasoned terminology. Sometimes we are in such distress that our prayers are only desperate cries for God to help us. At still other times we cannot find words adequate to express our feelings or voice what we need, though we are nevertheless still praying. But here is the encouraging thing: God hears all kinds of prayers. The Psalter itself contains various types of prayer. Besides, we have the New Testament teaching that, although we often “do not know what we ought to pray…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26).
3. The relationship that we must have to God. In these three opening verses David calls God his LORD twice (vv. 1, 3) and “my king and my God” once (v. 2). The latter phrase reminds us of the way Thomas greeted Jesus when he saw him following the resurrection. Before this Thomas had been told about the resurrection but had refused to believe it. He had demanded physical evidence: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). But after Jesus had appeared to him and had invited him to make the test he had demanded, Thomas fell at his feet exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (v. 28). That is the faith the psalmist shows in these verses.
Notice the pronouns: “my King and my God.” They show that the faith of the psalmist was genuine faith and not mere superstition. Spurgeon calls these pronouns “the pith and marrow of the plea.”3 And Derek Kidner says, “The covenant relationship expressed by the repeated ‘my’…gives the prayer a firm footing.”4
What is the first point we learn from verses 1-3? What characterizes it?
What are the different types of prayers that can be offered?
Describe a proper relationship to God that is necessary for him to answer our prayers.
Reflection: Can you identify with George Mueller and his deep interest in the salvation of people who are close to him? How does his experience affect your own prayers for people in your life?
3C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1a, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 45.
4Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 58.