By Chuck Griffin LifeTalk Editor
Psalm 17:1-7. A Prayer of David. O Lord, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help. Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips. Declare me innocent, for you see those who do right. You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say. I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people. My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you. I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.
At first glance, I find this prayerful psalm puzzling—perhaps even frustrating. It seems to have been prayed by one who believes himself to be without sin, making the prayer irrelevant to me.
Stranger still, it’s clearly marked as a “prayer of David,” certainly a man loved by God, but also a known sinner. David’s recorded story pulls no punches about his failures, the worst of them being adultery with Bathsheba and the arranged betrayal and murder of her husband Uriah.
A deeper reading, however, reveals the particular context for this prayer. David may have been imperfect—what human isn’t—but it seems he was in a situation where he was not at fault, and he sought vindication and protection from his enemies.
Now this prayer is starting to make sense. Perhaps it is even useful!
David asked to be tested. Such a request can come only after much introspection. Specifically, David had sought and apparently continued to seek that his words and actions be tested in the night, knowing his faults from the prior day would be revealed to him in the morning.
Sleep does reveal much. For people who actively seek God’s will, the night can either be filled with regretful tossing or peaceful rest. At this point in his life, David apparently rested well, receiving assurance God was with him.
Living in a different time than David, we know more clearly than he how God has rescued us from our ultimate enemies, the evil and death that result from sin. Jesus Christ has broken the power of both, and through our belief in his work on the cross, we are saved.
What remains is to align ourselves with our holy God more closely each day. We can begin by living in the light—living as people who know they will make it their evening prayer that they be examined through the night.
Lord, may we be conscious of your will not only day by day, but moment by moment. Amen.