In the previous Psalms leading up to this one, Psalms 134,135 and 136, the Psalmist has been calling God’s people to join him in worshipping the Lord. Then in Psalm 137, there is a pivotal shift of focus from these prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, to reflecting on a time of national crisis and captivity. How can we forget the powerful lament of a broken-hearted nation, “By the waters of Babylon where we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion…How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4).
In Psalms 140 and 141, both attributed to David, we find another shift from a national focus to a very personal focus. In 140:1 he cries “Deliver me” and “preserve me.” In 140:4, “Guard me,” and in 141:1, David’s urgency is clearly stated, “O Lord I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!” To paraphrase, “Hurry to me” and “Hear me.” It would seem that while David was in a spiritual condition that enabled him to worship God, he felt the weakness of his flesh, the inclination of his heart towards sin and the weight of the world pressing around him.
David is no stranger to pouring out his heart before the Lord. In Psalm 51, he prays, “Have mercy upon me, oh God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). Then, as he has grown in his relationship with God, and in his appreciation of the grace and forgiveness he has received for sins past, he says with almost shocking confidence in Psalm 138:23: “Search me oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Now, in Psalm 141, it seems that he is gravely determined not to slip out of the way everlasting, the pleasant path of righteousness and fellowship with the Father onto the thorny shoulder of sin. It’s possible David was far away from the tabernacle, but even so he wants his prayer to be counted as incense and the lifting of his hands as the evening sacrifice. The sacrifices that were consumed upon the old testament altars had to be examined and found to be without blemish, and in the same way, David wanted his worship to be from a pure heart.
We love to gather and worship the Lord. Does the time we share with our eyes on Christ, meditating on his cross and consecrated life, lead us to a place of self-examination and dependence upon God? While a well-rounded prayer life would include prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, confession and intercession for others, David demonstrates for us a heart attitude and posture of humility and dependence, and as he approaches the Lord in this prayer of supplication (which means “to plead humbly”), we are reminded that we should follow his example. This truth is emphasized for us in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Father, thank you for giving us your word. Thank you for the grace of forgiveness.
We have, like David, been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. Because of your love for us, we can lift up our hearts and voices and offer to you the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His perfect name. We can also draw near to you in times of trouble, sickness, and weakness. Deliver us. Preserve us. Guard us. Hear us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.