A friend of mine once told me that the psalms are a playlist for the Christian life. In other words: whether we are experiencing difficulty, joy, depression, comfort, anxiety, or peace; there is a psalm to help us walk through it.
In his book, Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer, Gary Miller echoes this idea, describing prayer as “calling on God to come through on his promises.” And that’s exactly what David did in many of the psalms, including Psalm 27. Using it as an example, we can see how we are to call out to God. With that in mind, here are four tips from David on praying to God amidst our distress.
1. Consider Your Situation
We get a glimpse into David’s situation when we read phrases like, “an enemy army encamp against me” (v. 3) and, “for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.” (v. 12).
While writing this psalm, David is in need. Whether this danger is literal (i.e. there really is an evil army surrounding David) or it reflects David’s internal struggle, these words show that David knows his desperation.
Fortunately for us, David took the time to pause and write down his situation. Though he was in the middle of dealing with enemy armies and rivals who sought his downfall, he paused to address the Lord. David took the time to invite the Lord in on his feelings, his troubles, and his broken situation.
In the same way, we often forget to voice our desperation to God. It is so easy to become distracted by the problem and become paralyzed in fear. Yet, the fear of our circumstances should never eclipse the fear of God. Instead, we can—like David—offer our situation to God by seeking him in prayer. The same God David turned to, is available to us in our trials.
2. Confess the Lord’s Greatness
We cannot get far into this psalm before seeing David’s confession of how great the Lord is: “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (v. 1)
David is offering up praise to God amidst his distress. This gives him some perspective on what he is dealing with.
Because the Lord is David’s salvation, there is no one to fear. The Lord has been David’s rescue—saving him from sure destruction—and will continue to be his salvation going forward. Because the Lord is the stronghold of David’s life, David knows that when all else crumbles, the Lord remains steadfast. So, the faithfulness of the Lord in the past gives him the courage to know that God will continue to be a solid rock and a refuge.
If we are not careful, we can get lost in our struggles. They can begin to make us feel lonely and it can seem like there is no end in sight. However, when we get our eyes off of our present circumstances and see the majesty of the Lord, everything else becomes strangely dim. When we confess the Lord’s greatness, our perspective changes.
3. Call out to the Savior
In verse 7, we see raw emotion as David cries out to God. He says, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!” David is making his requests known to God. After confessing the Lord’s greatness, he now turns that confession into a request by asking God to be true to his character.
At first, seeing that David asks for God’s grace might seem a bit out of place. He is not confessing sin, so why would he need God’s grace? However, when God gives his grace, he doesn’t just forgive. God’s grace always includes God’s goodness and his presence. So, in crying out for God’s grace, David is asking for God to be true to his character and draw near.
The Lord eagerly wants to pour his grace and goodness out on his people. He went to great lengths just so we would be able to ask for that grace and receive it in our time of need. Just as he was open to David’s cry, he invites you and me to cry out to him so we can experience the goodness of his character.
4. Courageously Wait for the Father
David ends this psalm reminding himself, and us, to be patient. He writes, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (v. 14) I think he said wait for the Lord twice because he needed that double reminder.
In the verse before, David says that he believes he will see the goodness of God (v. 13). David’s faith that God will come through is strong even though he does not know when his rescue will take place.
David tells us to be strong and take courage, even in the waiting period. And we have reason to do so! We, like David, can remember that the Lord is our salvation and our stronghold.
We can take courage while we wait, knowing that God stays true to his good character. So, we trust that his timing is always better than our own and we remind ourselves that he has never failed us.
If you are in a place of trial, I encourage you: take heart and join in David’s statement of faith by proclaiming, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord” (v. 13).