Today I’d like to look at Psalm 4 and how we can strengthen our hearts by praying through it in times of distress:
1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah
3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.
4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.
6 ¶ Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
I begin with verse 1 and declaring that I will respond to the distress (or anxiety/fear/worry etc.) in my life by calling out to God in prayer. I thank God for his mercies; mercies that are new every morning.
Verse 2 expands on that by acknowledging that most people look to other things and people in order to find relief from the stress in their lives. I resolve that I want to only seek God to deliver me or give me relief. He is my only solution! Now of course that doesn’t mean that I sit on my hands and do nothing in times of trouble and anxiety, but it does mean that I begin with coming to God and that I seek to act and respond according to his direction.
Verse 4 is amazing because lying in bed and stewing about what is causing distress in our lives is common to all of us. The problem is that many times we over-analyze things and blow situations out of control. Often we are tired (thus why we are in bed!) and our thoughts become cloudy. Have you ever stressed about something when you lie in bed trying to go to sleep and then in the morning you say to yourself, ‘what was I thinking?’ I have. I have learned over the years that I can’t really trust my thoughts late at night.
I’ve also really connected to verse 7 and the theme of ‘greater joy’. Begin to pray and ask God to fill your heart with the greater joy. Tell him you are holding out for the greater joy. Grain and new wine are a reference to good natural things that we often find relief in. It might be food, but it might be something quite different, but it does legitimately give you a feeling of joy. When you are under stress, what do you do? Where do you go to find relief? Sometimes what we do is problematic (such as drunkenness) but not necessarily. What David is saying in this verse is to hold out for the greater joy that only God can provide! Ask him for it. He wants to give you greater joy today!
I strongly encourage you to pray the Scriptures and begin to include the language of Scripture into your prayer life. That doesn’t mean that you just recite the Bible and tag on an ‘amen’ at the end. You certainly should express in your own words what you are feeling and thinking. In the case of Psalm 4, you can begin with verse 1 and declare that you trust God as the solution for the distress in your life, and then get specific and talk to him about what the anxieties are in your circumstances. Tell him how you feel. As you look at the Psalm you come to verse 7 and begin to pray for joy to come to your heart. Ask God to release joy to your spirit. There is so much in the Psalms about how David and the other Psalmists responded to stress and anxiety through prayer.
When we begin to pray the Scriptures, it shapes and directs our times of prayer in very powerful ways and it releases revelation to our spirit about the Word of God. Our hearts end up being ‘washed in the water of the word’.
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