Proper Psalm for Ash Wednesday (Morning).
Psalms 38-40 = Day 8 (Morning).
THE PILGRIM’S PRAYER
‘Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not Thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.’
There are three points in the text calling for notice.
I. The spirit of the prayer.—In this prayer we observe a mixture of
(a) Faith.—The Psalmist believed that God is a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. And therefore he says, ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord.’ He felt that he was not praying to a deaf idol, which has ears, but hears not. He felt, too, that he was not praying into the air, but to an unseen yet present God. Alas! too many have no faith in prayer. They do not really desire that for which they pray.
(b) Earnestness.—‘Give ear unto my cry.’ We often complain that God does not hear our supplications. But whose is the fault? The fault is not God’s. The fault is our own. ‘Ye have not,’ replies God, ‘because ye ask not; or if you do ask, ye ask amiss. Ye ask without faith. Ye ask without earnestness. And therefore God heareth you not.’
(c) Contrition.—David knew that he was a sinner—a miserable, gross sinner—and therefore he cried, ‘Deliver me from my transgressions.’ Oh, that our prayers may be equally acceptable in God’s sight! Oh, that He may see faith, earnestness, and contrition, even with tears, marking our supplications! And then, through the Saviour’s intercession, we shall boldly make David’s form of prayer our own.
II. The occasion of the prayer.—Some writers think the psalm was written during Absalom’s rebellion, when David was compelled to flee from Jerusalem and to go over Jordan as an outcast and a wanderer. He thereupon cried unto God for deliverance, and said, ‘I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.’ But, whatever was the occasion of the psalm, the mind of David seems to have been greatly discomposed when he wrote it; and he had a deep impression of the vanity and uncertainty and shortness of human life. Now this feeling ought to be our feeling also; and that, too, not on particular occasions, but at all times. We should feel that life is short, and that therefore we ought to wait more and more in prayer upon our God. And why need we go to God in prayer? This will be seen from the last verse of our text.
III. The object of the prayer.—The object of the prayer was that David might be in a prepared state before his soul departed into the eternal world. ‘O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.’ If David imagined that the rebellion of Absalom might prove successful, and end in some way in his own death, he might well ponder the solemnity of that event. To die, even to the Christian, is a momentous thing; and most Christians, if suddenly asked whether they are willing to depart, would inwardly cry, with the Psalmist, ‘O spare me a little!’ You have a good hope through God’s grace; you trust your sins are all pardoned through the blood of the Saviour; you glory in Christ as the Lord your righteousness; and yet, like Hezekiah you feel you would like time to set your house in order before you go. Let us learn to meditate, and so learn to pray. Meditate on your sins, and you will then pray, as David did, ‘Deliver me from all my transgressions.’ Meditate on the purifying influences of Christ’s atonement, and you will then pray, ‘Purge me with hyssop,’ the hyssop of the Redeemer’s blood, ‘and I shall be clean; wash me in the purifying fountain, and I shall be whiter than snow.’ Meditate on the converting power of the Holy Ghost, and your prayer will then be, ‘Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.’ Meditate on the shortness of time, and you will then pray, as David prayed, ‘Hold not Thy peace at my tears; for I am a stranger with Thee and a sojourner.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 39". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Easter