Its Psalm 17 today
There’s a difference between private prayer and public prayer. When we pray in public, we are praying on behalf of others and seeking to voice the thoughts and concerns of the group but private prayer is entirely personal. I wonder how many of us would want our private prayers recorded for others to read and dissect.
The heading states that this is a Psalm of David and although these headings are not inspired, they are very old and most consider them to be accurate. It seems the Psalmist is going through a period of great danger (v9). As we look at the life of David we can see that although he was a great king, sometimes his troubles were self-inflicted. His sin with Bathsheba led to a loss of moral authority and a failure to deal with first Amnon and then Absalom which in turn led to a terrifying ordeal for David and his family. He was certainly aware of his failings in this area; he wrote; “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2). In this Psalm he strikes a tone that is very different: “My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled” (v5).
Perhaps the setting of this Psalm is David’s early life when he was being hunted by King Saul even though David had shown him great loyalty. He does a number of things well;
- He examines his heart. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are right, even when we are opposed by Christians who are equally convinced. David had obviously examined his own heart because he went even further and asked the Lord to ‘probe his heart’. He invites the examination; ‘may your eyes see what is right. Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me’. It is only when we have tested our hearts that we can begin to pray effectively.
- He calls on the Lord. He says; ‘hear me’, ‘listen to my cry’, ‘hear my prayer’ and ‘I call on you’. So often our instinct is to try and sort things out ourselves or just to worry about it but David’s calls on the Lord. This is not a frantic cry to anyone who will listen and help; it comes from a relationship, he knows the Lord, he knows the Lord’s character and that he is loved. Paul would later write; “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). When we pray we are approaching someone who loves us deeply.
- He rests in God. David is content to bring his troubles to the Lord and leave them there. One of our regular speakers (Keith Wilson) said a few years ago; ‘if you worry don’t pray and if you pray don’t worry’. David knows that whatever happens, ultimately there will be justice because God is just. The final verse reveals that David is looking beyond this life and into eternity where he will see his Lord face to face.
Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow’r that can never fail—
Let their truth prevail over unbelief. (Speak, O Lord – Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)