Praying Your Way Through Psalm 139


I’ve always loved Psalm 139. Who wouldn’t? While God’s word is entirely God-centric, it’s easy to understand how clearly He sees us in this chapter. And humanly, it’s so normal to want to find ourselves in the center of the picture.

“How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

God thinks of us and shares His thoughts with us.

“In your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

He’s been counting our days for longer than we can rehearse.

But this time, I’ve found myself in dialogue with God through David’s voice here. I’ve been turning these words back into prayer. I think this chapter was written specifically for this purpose.

The chapter begins with David acknowledging what God does of His own accord:

“You have searched me and known me … You discern my thoughts from afar … your hand shall lead me.”

Then, after an interlude of intimacy–the realization that He forms each of us from nothing, sculpts us in the womb, knows every secret crevice and plans our “unscripted” future–David returns to ask God something. Something he already knows the answer to.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my anxious thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

“Search me, O God”–examine and explore me. David already knows that God does this, but here he’s asking God to show him the results. He’s admitting that it’s good for God to see all the hidden places, to light up all the darkness and reveal all shadowed things.

It might be seen as the equivalent to inviting the land lord into your home. Sure, he has complete authority to walk in unannounced and open every closet, but a tenant who welcomes him, throws the door open wide, will enjoy a better relationship and indeed even a better time of residence.

“Try me and know my anxious thoughts”–David wants God to understand his fears. Though even throughout the Old Testament believers were instructed to “fear not,” God knows the fragile state of our hearts. And while fear is disobedience at its core, God does not despise nor judge us for it. Instead, He knows it and David understands that is safe and good.

The Hebrew word here actually means “to prove”. As we allow God to test our fears, He will prove to you and me that they really have no power over us. 

“See if there be any grievous way in me” God sees our sin. He sees the sin of fearful unbelief. He sees the sins hidden in our darkened corners. This phrase actually means: see if there is any “pain, sorrow or idol”.

Our sin and idolatry will always cause us pain. Though we attempt to fool ourselves, the path of sin leads only to death. (Romans 6:23)

But the final conclusion of David’s prayer is a deep sigh of relief. Even as he asks God to “lead me in the way everlasting,” he said only a few verses before: “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

 

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