A psalm of David
1-2 God, come close. Come quickly! Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing! Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising; my raised hands are my evening prayers.
3-7 Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. Don’t let me so much as dream of evil or thoughtlessly fall into bad company. And these people who only do wrong—don’t let them lure me with their sweet talk! May the Just One set me straight, may the Kind One correct me, Don’t let sin anoint my head. I’m praying hard against their evil ways! Oh, let their leaders be pushed off a high rock cliff; make them face the music. Like a rock pulverized by a maul, let their bones be scattered at the gates of hell.
8-10 But God, dear Lord, I only have eyes for you. Since I’ve run for dear life to you, take good care of me. Protect me from their evil scheming, from all their demonic subterfuge. Let the wicked fall flat on their faces, while I walk off without a scratch. (MSG)
As I read through this Psalm, it occurred to me how much it teaches me about praying to God. Over the years I have learned so many formulaic methods for praying. I can remember as a child learning I must fold my hands, bow my head, and close my eyes; and, as a new believer, thinking that if I didn’t do it “just right” God would not hear my prayers. I joined a prayer group that met every Friday night to pray and listening to them pray to God each week intimidated me so much I didn’t pray out loud for two years! Two years! It intimidated me because their prayers sounded so “godly” to me. I didn’t want these people to know what was really going on inside of me. At this point of my life, I was still a very broken person. Most of my prayers were for myself because I needed God’s strength just to get me through the day. My prayers were selfish, sometimes angry, sometimes lying face down on the floor sobbing until there was nothing left inside of me. That is why I love David!
Reading through the Psalms, we are given insight into David’s prayer life. He is so open and honest in his conversations with God. When he is afraid, he takes it to God, when he is repentant, he takes it to God. Everything he is going through in his life is taken to God in prayer. There is no formula, no perfect place, no proper words—just gut honest thoughts. In my wildest dreams, I would never have prayed “let their leaders be pushed off a high rock cliff”. Why not? Well, because somewhere along the line I got the notion we only prayed “good things” for people. Have I thought things like that—of course! There have been people who have hurt me during the course of my life and I’ve wanted them to be hurt, wanted to get revenge. But I didn’t want to admit those things to God (as if He doesn’t know my thoughts). David does say them to God. We know David to be a man after God’s own heart. God loved David and David loved God. So if David prayed to God something like “Let the wicked fall flat on their faces, while I walk off without a scratch” I suppose it is alright for me to do likewise.
I have been through many years of counseling and one of the things I learned was the freedom that comes with being honest with our feelings. Stuffing those feelings causes trouble down the road because, like a jack-in-the-box, you never know when they are going to pop up. David is showing us the safest Person to share all these feelings with is God. When we pray to Him, tell Him what is going on inside of us, all those nasty yucky feelings, it releases them. Despite what the adage says, words can harm—sometimes irreparably. God is that safe haven. It is far better to say those words to Him than to say something hurtful to someone you can’t take back. David is crying out to God because he is feeling those feelings and asking God to keep him from doing evil. He doesn’t want to say what he knows isn’t pleasing to God, he doesn’t want to act on those feelings that are overwhelming him, and so he shares them with his Best Friend! He is trusting God to change his heart and take care of the situation. No worrying, no stressing, no fretting.
Lord, I want to be more like David. I thank you that you are a God that is so intimate, we can wrestle those sinful desires to say and do evil things with a kind, loving and just Friend. When something has happened that sets off those hurt feelings, fear, or insecurities that lie inside waiting to pop up, give me presence of mind to filter them through You and your truth before I lash out at someone. Let me speak a silent prayer to you identifying the feelings I struggle with and pray to not do evil in your eyes. Jesus tells us to speak the truth with love, and that is what I want to do. I do not want to hurt someone because I am hurting. Most of the time the problem is with me and something from my past that is reacting, not what they have said or done. You alone know my story from beginning to end; You alone can post a guard at my mouth. Father, I bare my soul to you and pray for your love to fill all those crevices of brokenness that still need repair. I pray as David did for you to set me straight, correct me, and do not let sin anoint my head. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen