Few things are more telling about our spiritual state than the substance of our prayer requests. For that reason, a good exercise is to study the prayer requests of godly men as recorded by inspiration. And since David is known as a “man after God’s own heart,” his prayer requests are particularly instructive. Three significant ones come to mind.
Test my heart and mind. Who in his right mind invites examination, particularly by a holy and omniscient God? Apparently the righteous do because David prayed: “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and heart” (Psa. 26:2). While many of us spend much of our time attempting to avoid God’s scrutiny, David asked for it. Yes, he asked with a certain amount of confidence that he had been faithful to the commandments of the Lord; nevertheless, there was no presumption in his request. He did not ask God to take a look and bring him back an analysis or a report card. He asked that God examine him by way of proving and trying him. Here was a request fraught with great potential difficulty for David. But such was his love for the Lord and his desire to please Him that he willingly offered his life to God to examine by trial so that he might be all and always what the Lord wanted him to be. It is a wise man who places no confidence in mere self-assessment. God will be our ultimate Judge. How wise to ask Him for an assessment now, when we still have time to mend our ways and live for Him.
Let me know how frail I am. David’s exact words as translated in the Authorized Version are: “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psa. 39:4). Scholars do not agree on the exact meaning of the Hebrew word translated frail. The NASB translates the word as “transient”; The Interlinear Bible translates it as “lacking.” Several others prefer “fleeting.” Regardless, the implication is clear. David wanted to understand his limitations, whether in terms of the brevity of life or the weakness of his nature. Others might mark his strengths and praise his accomplishments. But David was not deceived by the flattery of men. He knew that his frame was dust. He knew that he was nothing apart from the Lord. And he desired to know God’s exact measure of him so that he would not put false hope in his own ability or live as if this temporal life would go on forever. Surely, if it is wise to know what strengths we have, it is at least as wise to know what our weaknesses are. When so identified and labeled we are less prone to rely on the fallible arm of the flesh; rather, we turn to a perfect, omnipotent God.
See if I have any sin in my life. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:23, 24). This is the best known of the three prayers. But for all that, probably not more prayed than the others. Who wants his sin exposed? Not the entrenched sinner, surely. But David knew that God already and always knew his thoughts and his ways. The request was made so that God would reveal to David any areas where sin festered. He wanted to know so that he could confess the sin and root it out. He wanted to please the Lord, and he wanted the peace, and the joy, and the fellowship that comes with a pure heart. A wise man does not hide his sin: he confesses it. A wise man does not hope that his sin remains covered: he exposes it. A wise man knows the blessing of living in harmony with a holy and righteous God and wants his life to be one that the Lord can approve and bless. Not sin, but its eradication is the joy and rejoicing of his heart. The wise man earnestly asks God to search out every hidden cache of sin in order that he might walk in the blessed “way everlasting.”
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