Real To Real
A prayer of David.
Hear me, LORD, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.
C. S. Lewis in his book, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, said, “The prayer preceding all prayer is, ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’” In today’s psalm text the ‘real’ David is crying out to the ‘real’ God. David gets real, coming to God without pretense or façade, admitting full well he is “poor and needy.”
Kings do not normally put into print that they are helpless, but instead prefer to present an image of being in control and well able to manage their problems. But David knows that the first condition of prayer is to be real, fully aware, and honest about his need. Saint Augustine rightly noted, “God gives where He finds empty hands.” (Cited by Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace)
In this psalm it is the real David praying and putting the focus on who God is: He is “forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call…” The abounding “love” to which David appeals is a translation of the Hebrew hesed. This speaks of the enduring, steadfast, covenant love of God in which God pledges eternal faithfulness to His covenant partners.
In his prayer, David puts emphasis on who God is, twice addressing Him as the God who keeps covenant with His people. This is seen in David twice calling out to God as LORD: “Hear me, LORD… Hear my prayer, LORD.” When LORD is found in all capital letters, the translators are indicating that this is a translation of the sacred, covenant name of God: Yahweh. Yahweh or LORD is the name by which God enters into covenant, pledging eternal faithfulness to them. “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7). It is God’s faithfulness to us that is the basis of David’s cry to God: “Hear me, LORD… Hear my prayer, LORD.” As we pray, we pray in the confidence that, “God is faithful even when we are faithless” (II Timothy 2:13). The sacred, ineffable name, LORD, or Yahweh, is a shorthand reminder that God is faithful to us.
Note that three times in today’s text the word “Lord” is not written in all capital letters. When written in the lower case, “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew Adonai, which designates God as sovereign, the ruling Lord over all. This speaks of His mighty and absolute power to answer our cry to Him for help.
We can follow David’s lead in prayer by presenting our real selves to God just as we are, “poor and needy”. “God cannot put his fullness into our emptiness if we conceit ourselves to be filled and in need of nothing.” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Psalms). As we pray we cry out to God both as “LORD” and “Lord”. He is faithful in His covenant-keeping love, and as “Lord” He is the sovereign over all. This is the God to whom we pray! C. S. Lewis was right: “May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.”
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