Short Meditations in Psalms: 4.1 A Prayer Life
Psa 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
There is a sense of deja-vu with many of David’s psalms in that they are a cry to God in difficult circumstances. The circumstances may change but they remain difficult, for David lived in a day of uncertainties much of which was before he had subdued his neighbours. But for David there was something more than dealing with enemies who were neighbouring countries, he was also acutely aware of the spirituality or lack thereof in the country and as much as his heart was for God that wasn’t necessarily true for those around him. When he wanted to stand for the Lord this meant that there were those who would oppose his righteousness and oppose his reign. Indeed from what he says in verse 2 there are those who actively participate in idol worship and they reject or oppose the Lord.
He calls upon the Lord for help but more than that he calls for the Lord to not only hear him but also to answer him: “Answer me when I call to you.” We have seen this in the previous psalm but it bears repeating. David expects answers and if you read David’s life in the Old Testament you find there are times when he specifically called on the Lord and had specific answers that guided him in battle.
David’s relationship with the Lord was a living relationship, a relationship that involved communication, two-way communication. I have to ask in the day in which we live where the Christian community is in a minority in the West, and within that community there are varying degrees of life, is that the sort of relationship that you and I have with the Lord?
Note the grounds on which David appeals to the Lord: “O my righteous God.” He is going to point out things in people around him that are unrighteous and which, therefore, he would expect the Lord to deal with. His request is quite specific. He is in distress because of those around him and so he asks, “Give me relief from my distress.”
Now there is something that follows that is highly significant: “be merciful to me.” Mercy is unearned grace and forgiveness which, as one dictionary puts it is, “kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness; forbearance and compassion.” To ask the Lord to be merciful means to ask Him to go beyond what is deserved and you can only ask that of a person who you know is like that, who wants to go beyond what is merely earned or deserved. This is the depth of David’s knowledge of the Lord that culminates in the cry, “hear my prayer.” Lord, he is saying, for righteousness sake hear me, but if not that simply be merciful for you are a merciful God.