Prayer Changes Me
(8) Keep me as the apple (pupil) of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings, (9) from the wicked who oppress me, from my mortal enemies that surround me. (10) They close up their insensitive hearts. With their mouths they speak arrogantly. (11) They have now surrounded our steps. They set their eyes to throw us to the ground. (12) They are like a lion, eager to tear (its prey), like a young lion lurking in ambush. (13) Arise, Yahweh, confront them, subdue them. By your sword deliver my soul from the wicked. (14) From (such) men (deliver my soul) by your hand, Yahweh, from (such men) of the world whose portion is in this life. As for your treasured ones, you fill the womb. They are satisfied with sons. They leave their abundance to their offspring. (15) As for me, I will see your face in righteousness. When I awake, I will be satisfied with your likeness.
In the last verse of the previous segment (vs. 7), David speaks of finding refuge from his adversaries at God’s right hand. In the second half of the psalm, David expands on this theme of seeking God’s protection. First, David asks God to shelter him (vss. 8 & 9). Then he eloquently describes the arrogance of his adversaries (vss. 10-12). Again, he petitions God for his protection (vss. 13 & 14a). Finally, he rejoices in the blessings God gives to those who belong to him (vss. 14b & 15).
What sets this section apart are several vivid figures of speech. “The apple of your eye” (vs. 8) is a term borrowed from Moses referring to the very center of the eye, the pupil (Dt. 32:10). It refers to someone highly cherished, someone to keep an eye on. “Hide me in the shadow of your wings” (vs. 8) pictures God lovingly and selflessly caring for his own as a mother hen instinctively gathers her chicks under her wings to shield them in times of threat and danger.
In a simile David likens his enemies to hungry, predatory lions who attack from ambush and tear their prey apart (vs. 12). He then pictures God’s outpouring of blessing in terms of “filling the womb” and being “satisfied with sons” (vs. 14). This echoes the message of Psalm 127, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” (Ps. 127:3).
Finally, he uses a figure of speech called “personification,” speaking of seeing God’s face and being satisfied with his likeness (vs. 15) although we know that God is spirit and never takes bodily form (Jn. 4:24). While the Old Testament forbids any attempt to represent God physically, Paul did state that we actually see the glory of God in the face of his Son: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
I. Praying for protection from our enemies (8-12)
II. Praying with confidence that God will bless us (13-15)
Through believing prayer in a powerful God, we overcome our fears and experience his presence and blessing.
Most of us are familiar with the slogan, “Prayer changes things,” often displayed on billboards, in church bulletins, or on the dustcover of a book. To be more accurate the statement should read, “Prayer changes me.” As evidence of this, consider how prayer changed David in Psalm 17, particularly in these last eight verses. While we may not be able to pinpoint the specific occasion in David’s life when he offered this prayer, we see him moving from fear to faith, from anxiety to assurance, as he sought Yahweh’s protection. While his circumstances may not have changed, we sense in him a definite transformation. He has gained great confidence in a prayer-answering God.
This is what so often happens as we pray. When we bring our anxieties to him and lay them at his feet, the God of peace gradually instills in us a wonderful sense of his presence and protection. Little may have changed in our external circumstances, yet everything seems different. Outwardly it may be the same enemies, the same problems, the same frustrations, but inwardly we are calmed, given a fresh perspective, and spiritually revitalized. We emerge from a time of prayer rejoicing because we have been fortified with a greater awareness that Yahweh is in control and has promised to protect and lead us through the difficulties that we face.