Psalm 6 & 40: Learning To Pray Like David

God is a person. In fact, He is HaShem, the Name, the Person, the Supreme Person. Because He is a person, with mind, emotion and will, and we are persons, we can relate to God as we relate to human beings. The same principles of relationship apply to our relationship with God.

David was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a man after God’s heart. He was a descendant of Abraham, Israel and Judah. He was a great warrior, builder and king. He was the first of his dynasty, which was chosen by God to bring forth  the Messiah, the ultimate King of Israel and the nations. What an honor!

David was a prophet. And he was a poet and musician. And he prayed a lot – about everything. He wrote down many of his prayers, and put them to music, creating the Book of Psalms. He wrote most of the book of Psalms, which has been the prayerbook of Israel and the Church for 3,000 years. David knew how to pray. We can learn some lessons about prayer from David.

What is prayer? Prayer is simply talking to God. It’s communicating your thoughts and feelings to your Maker. It can include asking Him for things. It can express appreciation for who He is and what He has done, is doing and will do.

Since we are persons and since God is a person, prayer can be very real – like the way you would talk to a person you wanted something from. David prayed like that.

David was involved in the great events of his day – politics and intrigues and betrayals and rebellions and wars. There were many times when he felt endangered, overwhelmed, distressed, sad, upset, depressed. Maybe you can relate to that.

In response to these difficult  situation, he talked to God and asked for help. He appeals for help on the basis of four things:

Help me because of who You Are.

Help me because of who I am.

Help me because of our mutual interests.

Help me because of our mutual enemies.

If we understand these four things upon which David bases his prayers, we can learn how to pray better, to pray more Biblically – and that is a very good thing to be able to do.

Let’s start with a shorter song – Psalm 6, then move to a longer song – Psalm 40.

Psalm 6

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm (song) of David.

Here’s the situation: David is very upset. He is surrounded by enemies who want to kill him. He wants God’s help so that doesn’t happen. Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in Your wrath. Lord, don’t be too hard on me. I can take a little correction from You, but not too much. Who is God? He is like a just judge. He is also like a good father who disciplines his children. David appeals to God to help him on the basis of who God is – a just judge and good father. David understands he might deserve some discipline, but He appeals to God, as to a just judge or good father, to not discipline him too much by allowing his enemies to be victorious.

Next, David appeals for help on the basis of who God is – merciful and sympathetic; and because of who David is – a suffering creature. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. David knows that God is gracious and merciful; that He doesn’t always treat His creatures the way they deserve to be treated. He often graciously helps those who are suffering even though they may not deserve it. David wants some of that grace and mercy applied to him.

David is suffering. He is faint, weak, in deep agony and anguish. He feels like he can’t last much longer. He needs divine intervention right away. And so he asks: How long, Lord, how long?, asking God to rescue him soon.

Next, David appeals to God for help because of who God is. He is full of love. Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. David appeals to an aspect of God’s nature – love. It is God’s nature to love His creatures, which includes helping His creatures, taking care of them, providing for them, meeting their needs. If a creature needs help in a dangerous situation, then the love of the Creator impels Him to help, and David appeals to the love of God – God’s attribute of love.

Next, David appeals to God for help because of their mutual interests. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? It is the duty of the creature to acknowledge the greatness of the Creator. That is right and good and honors the Creator; and it’s good for the creature. But, David won’t be able to do that if he is dead. Sheol is a real place; and those who are in it are characterized as being quiet. There is a lack of activity in Sheol – like praising God. So, if God wants David to continue worshiping Him, He will need to keep David alive and prevent him from being defeated by his enemies. David is appealing to God on the basis of shared interests.

David appeals to God for help because of who he is – a suffering creature; and because of who God is – Someone who is sympathetic to the suffering of His creatures; and because David and God share the same enemies. I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. David is suffering intensely because of his enemies who are threatening to end his life. But David’s enemies are Gods’ enemies, and so it only makes sense for God to defeat their mutual enemies who are making David suffer so much.

David is confident that these prayers have influenced God, and that the Lord will respond and end the threat caused by David’s evil enemies. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.

David is confident that his enemies will be defeated. They will retreat and experience a lot of shame and suffering. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Let’s turn to Psalm 40, which is similar, but longer, and see the same principles of prayer at work. Remember, God is a person, and David talks to God as a Person, and appeals to Him on the basis of four things:

Help me because of who You Are.

Help me because of who I am.

Help me because of our mutual enemies.

Help me because of our mutual interests.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm (song).

David is again in danger. Again, he is asking the Lord for help. He begins his song with this: I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. Waiting for the Lord means getting close to Him, and asking the Lord to do something, and then waiting for a response. David did that. He cried to the Lord. He prayed for help with passion. He then waited for a response. He was confident that God would respond to his request in a positive way and save him. Although the tense of the verb here is in the past, indicating that has already happened, I think David is using the past tense because he is sure that God will rescue him.

Good praying involves bringing your request to the Lord and then waiting patiently for the Lord to respond. And His response might be “yes.” It might be “no.” It might be: “I will answer it in My time and in my way.”

Again, in this specific case, David is confident that God will rescue him, and so although the tense of the verbs is in the past, indicating completed action, I think David is using the past tense because he is sure that God will rescue him. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. David’s situation was desperate. He was in a life-threatening situation. He was like a man in deep mud who was in danger of being pulled under and drowning in the mud; or he was like a man stuck in mud which made him an easy target of his enemies.

But David was sure that the Lord would save him out of that dangerous situation. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. The Lord rescuing him would be like taking a man about to sink under the mud and putting him on a solid rock. Knowing that he would be saved from an imminent death and be put into a state of safely and stability made David very happy, so happy that he was determined to compose a song of celebration, in which he would say nice things about the God who rescued him. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Why is David mentioning this? Because the Lord wants His creatures to worship Him. So, if the Lord saves him, David will remain alive and be able to praise the Lord. That should make the Lord want to save David. David is appealing to God on the basis of who God is – a God who should be honored by His creatures.

And, when the Lord does save David from his enemies, David knows that will impact many others and enhance their faith in God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Why does David mention this? Because the Lord wants human beings to trust Him and be loyal to Him. So, if the Lord saves David from death, David’s life will be spared, which is good for David, and the Lord’s agenda will be furthered. David is appealing to the Lord based on their mutual interests.

David understood that the human being who remains loyal to the Creator and who does not, in pride and arrogance, insult the Creator by worshiping false gods, will be happy and advantaged. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. David is such a man. How can the Lord, who is faithful and true, not be faithful to such a man like David, and not rescue him and make him happy? David appeals to God on the basis of who he is, a man who is loyal to the Lord, and on the basis of who God is.

Why should God save David’s life? Because David is a man who praises the Lord for who He is and the many marvelous things He has done, is doing and will do, and God is seeking those who worship Him. Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You! Were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare. This is beautiful. If God wants David to keep praising Him in this beautiful way, with these beautiful expressions of worship, the Lord will want to keep David alive.

David appeals to God to save him because, unlike many who have a shallow understanding of God and really don’t worship Him from their hearts, David really knows God and really serves the Lord. Sacrifice and offering You did not desire – but my ears You have opened – burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do Your will, my God; Your Torah, Your teaching is within my heart.” David understood that true religion is not found in mere external ceremonies, even if they are divinely ordained one like the various sacrifices. True religion is found in a man whose ears have been opened by God so that he is able to understand what the Creator is really saying to us; a man who realizes that his priority in life is to do, not what he wants, but what God wants; a man who treasures the Torah, the Divinely-Inspired Teaching, in his heart, at the core of who he is, and practices the Lord’s teaching.

The Scroll, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, writes about such men. It writes about an Abraham, a Moses, a Joshua, other righteous men. It describes men who would come in the future, even good kings who would come, like David, and especially like King Messiah Yeshua – which the author of the letter to the Hebrews point out. David knew he was such a man – a man who knows God, serves God, lives according to the will and Word of God – and appeals to God to save him on that basis.

Why should the Lord help David? Because unlike so many others, David is not ashamed of telling others about the Lord, even in a very public way. I proclaim Your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as You know. I do not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I speak of Your faithfulness and Your saving help. I do not conceal Your love and Your faithfulness from the great assembly. If you were God, wouldn’t you want to keep a man around who wasn’t embarrassed to tell others about who You are: a God who is able to intervene and help and save? A God who is righteous, faithful and loving? If you were God, wouldn’t You want to keep David alive so that he could unashamedly continue telling large groups about You when the people of Israel gathered together?

Next, David appeals to God to help him because of who he is and who God is. Do not withhold Your mercy from me, Lord; may Your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. David is in trouble – lots of trouble. He has many serious problems – too many to count, more than the individual hairs on his head. He has so many problems he is discouraged and depressed and on the verge of giving up. His heart is failing. He has enemies from without and he has sins dragging him down from within. He has so many problems they are like a dark cloud surrounding him so that he can’t see and is in danger of being attacked or falling and not rising again. He let’s the Lord know that he is a sad, pathetic creature. But he also knows that God is merciful, loving and faithful, and he appeals to God, on the basis of those great attributes, to rescue him. God you are merciful, so be merciful to this pathetic creature by saving me. God you are loving, so let me experience the beneficial impact of your love by rescuing me. God, you are faithful, so be faithful to Your faithful servant, by delivering me.

And, He asks the Lord to do it soon! His situation is desperate. He needs a quick response. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.

David asks the Lord to allow his enemies, who are also the Lord’s enemies, to be defeated and disgraced and brought into a state of confusion so they are unable to hurt him. May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame.

In contrast to praying for the defeat and shame of their mutual enemies, David asks the Lord to bring victory, happiness and joy to the friends and allies of God, to those who seek God and want God to intervene on behalf of the righteous – which includes David of course. But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who long for Your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” And they can say “the Lord is great” because they have experienced His saving help and are victorious – which is what David is praying for.

David’s final appeal for help is again based on who David is and who the Lord is. But as for me, I am poor and needy. May the Lord think of me. David is pathetic and God is gracious and merciful sympathetic to the suffering of His creatures. You are my help and my deliverer; You are my God, do not delay. David is weak and in trouble; and because the Lord is David’s God, and full of power and the ability to help, and since it is the obligation of the deity to help His creatures who worship Him, the Lord should rescue him – soon. Right away.

David was a man who knew how to pray. And he prayed a lot; and his prayers were answered. He faced many dangers and the Lord saved Him out of them all. And, he had one of the most successful lives any human being has ever lived. And he wrote most of the prayers in the Bible – the book of Psalms.

So, how can this help us to pray better, more effectively?

We should imitate David. David had a real relationship to God. We must too. We develop a relationship by knowing the Three-In-One God of Israel: God the Father, Messiah Yeshua the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We transfer our loyalties to this Three-In-One God.

David was not a perfect man, but a righteous man who really knew God, served God, lived according to the will and Word of God, prayed to God, praised God, told others about God. We must too.

When he needed help, David he appealed to God on the basis of four things:

Help me because of who You Are.

Help me because of who I am.

Help me because of our mutual interests.

Help me because of our mutual enemies.

Keep in mind that these are appeals from a faithful servant of God. That is very different from the insincere bargaining of someone who has refused to serve God, and only when he is in trouble, tries something like this: “God, I’m in trouble. Save me and I’ll serve You. If You don’t save me, I won’t serve You.” Or: “If You bless me, only then will I serve You.” No. David was committed to serve the Lord no matter if God rescued him or not.

We can pray, appealing to God on those same bases. Here are a few examples:

Help me because of who You Are. You are my Heavenly Father. Like a good father, please meet my needs. Give me the bread I need today. And, please meet my spiritual needs. Forgive my sins. Don’t allow me to be tempted and fail.

Help me because of who I am. I am Your child. I serve you. I have been made righteous because of Messiah. I am not a perfect son, but righteous, so Lord, help me.

Help me because of our mutual interests. Heavenly Father, we have something in common. We share Messiah. Yeshua is Your Son, and He is my Lord and Savior and Kinsman Redeemer. He is connected to You, and He is connected to me, so, because of this very important connection we share, help me. Lord, You want the Good News proclaimed to every creature. I am passionate about that too. Help me to do well so I can proclaim the Good News to the Jewish people first, and also to the peoples of the other nations.

Help me because of our mutual enemies. Say you are a follower of Messiah living in Israel or Syria or Iraq, endangered by radical Islam. You can pray: The followers of radical Islam are endangering me and harming and killing my brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East. They are wicked. Please convert them or allow them to be defeated.

And, remember, when you are asking the sovereign Lord for something, wait patiently on the Lord, knowing that He has the right to say yes; no; or talk to me later about it; or I’ll answer your request in My time and in My way.