Calling on the Father
(15) But for you, Yahweh, I wait. It is you, O Lord my God, who will answer, (16) for I said, “Only do not let them rejoice over me, those who would boast against me when my foot slips.” (17) For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me, (18) for I confess my iniquity. I am sorry for my sin. (19) But my enemies are vigorous. They are strong. Those who hate me wrongfully are numerous. (20) Those who repay me evil instead of good act as my adversaries because I pursue (what is) good. (21) Do not forsake me, Yahweh. My God, do not be far from me. (22) Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.
This final segment of Psalm 38 both opens and closes with earnest prayer expressed by three imperatives: “do not let” (vs. 16), “do not forsake” (vs. 21), and “make haste to help” (vs. 22). With each petition, David uses the same three names for God as he cries out for help: Yahweh (God of the Covenant), Adonai (sovereign Lord), and Elohim (the eternal one).
Sandwiched in between these prayers, we find the psalmist owning up to debilitating weakness resulting from unconfessed sin (vss. 17 & 18) and describing the threat he faced from enemies who were stronger and more numerous than he (vss. 19 & 20). In this time of overwhelming need, all he could do was cry out to God for deliverance.
I. Opening prayer: crying out to Yahweh (15 & 16)
II. Internal turmoil: from sin that must be confessed (17 & 18)
III. External trouble: from many strong enemies (19 & 20)
IV. Closing prayer: Hasten to help me! (21 & 22)
When overwhelmed by failures and foes, we cry out to Yahweh for the help which he alone can give us.
When is it appropriate for believers to pray? Paul provided a clear answer to the Thessalonians: “Pray continually” (1 Thes. 5:17 in the NIV) or “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17 in the KJV). Paul gave another clear answer to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Although we know what we should do, many live according to the following statement: “When you have tried everything else, pray.” In other words, prayer has become the last resort, what we finally do when all other escape routes have proven to be dead ends. How much better if we were to make prayer our default position, our first response to whatever we are facing!
And if there should be concern regarding how God feels about our turning to him with our concerns, both minuscule and monumental, remember how loving parents respond when one of their children asks for help. Would they say, “How dare you bother me with something like this?” Or do they rather reply, “I am so glad you asked for my help?” If most earthly parents readily respond to the needs of their children, imagine how our heavenly Father takes delight in meeting our needs when we call on him for help.
Jesus asked a series of questions in teaching his disciples about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more (do you suppose) your Father in heaven will give good gifts to those who ask him” (Mt. 7:9-11)? God has pledged to hear and answer our prayers whenever we come to him no matter how insignificant they may seem. He is more glorified and clearly more gratified when our coming to him has become an established routine, not just the panic button we push when everything else we have tried has failed.