The Word Made Fresh
(A psalm of David.)
1Hear my prayer, LORD. Listen to my plea and answer me,
for you are faithful and righteous.
2Please do not judge me, for no one is perfect before you.
3My enemy is pursuing me, crushing my spirit,
making me hide in darkness like the dead.
4My spirit is weak, and my heart is dismayed.
5I remember how things used to be.
I think about the things you have done for me
and meditate on your deeds.
6I reach out to you, thirsting for you like a desert land.
7Please answer me, LORD, quickly. I’m giving up!
Don’t hide from me, or I may as well be dead.
8Remind me of your unfailing love. I put my trust in you.
Show me in what direction I should turn. My life is in your hands.
9Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I have fled to you for safety.
10You are my God – show me what you want me to do.
Lead me onto a safe path.
11For the sake of your name, LORD, spare my life.
For the sake of your righteousness, lead me out of trouble.
12Let your unfailing love turn my enemies away
and get rid of those who oppose me, for I am your servant.
Superscription: in Christian tradition this psalm has been included in the 7 “penitential” psalms along with 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130 even though there is no element of confession in it – a trait it has in common with several of the other “penitential” psalms. All but two of these are said to be “of David.” This one is the 70th of the 72 “psalms of David.”
1-2: This is as close as the psalm comes to being penitential – the admission that nobody is perfect.
3-6: Enemies are in pursuit, a description which may actually reflect a time of war or may be a metaphor for other kinds of troubles. In the midst of them the author remembers how God has acted in the past and raises a petition for God’s help in the present.
7-12: He begs for God to intervene. The images used in this last half of the psalm are varied and a bit confusing, alternating between begging for help and petitioning for guidance and wisdom, but in the end resting on trust in God’s steadfast love.
Many of the psalms come across as selfish demands for God to provide special treatment. But the focus is always on God and the fulfillment of God’s will through the psalmist. Yes, when we ask for God’s help, we are being selfish to some degree. But putting ourselves and our situation into God’s hands is also an act of faith. One way to safeguard against selfishness in our prayers is to always end our requests with Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane: “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”