Summary: David's emotional outpouring as he hides in a cave, with Saul closing in... is heard and answered by God.
The first thing we see in this Psalm is the descriptive label placed over it in English translations. When written in the Hebrew, these descriptions would actually have been part of the Psalm and so should be carefully considered when studying these Psalms out.
We are told that this Psalm is a maskil and scholars differ on what that means. Some say it refers to a musical term that may have told how it was to be played. That’s like a music leader telling his musicians that a song is to be played like a soft waltz. That’s one idea that folks have. Other scholars believe it means it is a teaching Psalm. For me, I think that’s probably right because the description gives a strong clue to the Psalm’s overall meaning, but I’ll get back to that in the conclusion.
I want you to look at the strong emotion that is descriptive of David’s prayer. There are some very strong words here in the first few verses.
“I Cry out Loud!”
“I Lift up my voice” or the CEB “I beg out loud”
“I pour out my complaint” or the CEB “I pour out my concerns”
“Before him I tell him I tell my trouble” or the CEB “I announce my distress to Him!”
The first thing I want you to see is that David got loud. His prayer was emotional. It wasn’t a quiet meeting with God, but an emotional appeal that would have been quite audible.
I believe most prayers should be audible. Jesus said, “When you pray, SAY..” and then offered the model prayer of submission to God. He didn’t say “When you pray, meditate” or “When you pray, think”—he said—“Say”--- A prayer seeking salvation should be audible. For whosoever shall CALL upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul writes in Romans 10 that the heart believes but the mouth confesses. One of the root problems in thinking I was saved was praying a silent prayer for salvation, one that I did not understand, and one that was never put into words. I publicly confessed salvation, but I hadn’t really called upon the Lord, instead I had simply reflected on my own personal desire to be saved.
Now some say—now wait a minute, Pastor. Recently you begin initiating each service with a “Call to Order” where you ask us to be quiet, meditate on God’s goodness and His purpose for our presence, and finally, silent prayer. How can you challenge us to prepare for worship by silent prayer and then turn around and say prayers should be audible? Note that I said “I believe most prayers should be audible.” Remember that Nehemiah, before the King of the Medes and Persians was asked a question and Nehemiah says that he prayed within himself before answering. There are certainly times when we need to stop and pray within our Spirit alone. I know that there are times before I respond to someone, like Nehemiah, I silently ask God to give me the right words.
I’m also not advocating that all of your prayers be loud. Can you imagine if I arose early in the morning and went to my desk (in my garage, which is a combination office and game room)—did my Bible reading and then began shouting to the Lord about my needs, etc. Waking the whole household or neighborhood with loud praying makes no sense either.
Prayers need to be spoken because the mouth makes confession of our need before the Lord. Our prayers become like sweet incense, rising to heaven, where they bless God. When we say something aloud to God we begin to become honest, especially about our intense need of His rescue, His help, His righteousness, and so forth. We don’t speak aloud because God doesn’t know our need or know our heart. We speak aloud because that which we say aloud strengthens our belief once we have said it. Our mouths do not speak creative words, but when we appeal to God verbally it strengthens our hearts, our resolve, and our commitment to what we are praying.
David says that God already knows what’s going on in his life. He says in verse three that even when his spirt is weak God still knows his way. God still knows the circumstances, but sometimes it is important that we confess “I am weak, but thou art strong!” When we feel spiritually weak, we can only refill at the throne of grace, as we seek God’s spirit, God’s grace, God’s help, and God’s provision for our lives.
Admitting weakness is a sign of spiritual strength. For if we are spiritually strong without God then we are only experiencing a false sense of confidence in ourselves—a demonstration of sinful pride.