O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. Psalm 54:2
Going back to the meaning we find of the cry “O God” in the first verse of this psalm, we see how precious this expression is to the saints of Christ. The poet, and we with him, express complete satisfaction in the one who is perpetually greater than all creation; the one whose sandals we are not fit to untie; the one to whom we joyously submit. The second verse begins in this expression, then seasons it with the reason. Why is it so sweet to utter these words of exhaustion? Because I know how glorious and victorious, how manifestly gracious and sovereign is my God. I know how he loves me with a steadfast love for which I have no other words but, O God you are magnificent. Because I know from out of all Your attributes I identify in Scripture, their main object is You and their main subject is me. You listen when I cry to You, otherwise Your graciousness and Your justification of me, a sinner made righteous through Christ, would not make a lick of sense. If You, O God, are logical and trustworthy, then I am assured You hear my prayers.
Are you in a place where you can meditate on how glorious God is? How jealous God is for his own glory? This is the first place to start in understanding how sweet it is to ask if God hears your prayers. When we, like David, wrap our heads around the inexhaustible glory of God it transforms us and mightily changes the way we consider all that we ask of him. God knows us and then hears us. Before we say what wrong we are in, he knows and yet he listens. We find it is too small a thing to ask personal peace from the one who restores all creation? why would we think we could burden God (Isaiah 49:6)? If we might think it too small, then surely we must ask it! William Law writes of this David-like submission:
It is as plain and necessary a first principle to believe you are thus God’s, that you thus belong to him, and are to act and suffer all in a thankful resignation to His pleasure. When you are satisfied that God does not only do that which is wise, and good, and kind, but that which is the effect of an infinite wisdom and love in the care of you, it will be as necessary, whilst you have this faith, to be thankful and be pleased with everything which God chooses for you as to wish your own happiness!
God calls us into submission to his will because it is the most glorious path for his and thus for us. When we are drawn to his will we are content like Paul (Philippians 4:11). Do you want to speak with God with such contentment in mind? You do if you properly envision just how Good and Trustworthy God is.
Now let us look to this second phrase, “hear my prayer.” The term for prayer in this verse is an odd word meaning considerations or the mulling of thoughts in the heart. How often do you have all sorts of jumbling and criss-crossing tension pulsing through your heart and you just don’t know how to describe it? Imagine taking those shuffled thoughts and meditations over your personal strife and simply placing the lump on the table as evidence against yourself before God the Judge. As we noted in the first verse of Psalm 54, Jesus has already justified us before God, we have his righteousness imputed to us, we wear his cloak. So now we, like David, pray and meditate on all the problems of our hearts and appeal to God, “hear all of this stuff!”
We have the great Comforter (John 16), our intercessor, within us now from the moment Christ justified us. We are in communion with ‘O God’ just as Paul tells us “the Spirit hears our groans” and makes sense out of our bumbling lips (Romans 8:26-27). The same way it doesn’t matter if you say bad words in the church building or at home, we have assurance if we are confessing Christians, God hears us all day every day! That is a good thing because it is assurance of our preservation in his grace! No matter what mess I bring to the table the Spirit is never-changing and always at work within me.
The Psalmist finishes his sentence with “give ear to the words of my mouth.” Ear is a pretty straightforward word, isn’t it? However, it becomes a bit of a struggle when the poet is referring to God. As Christians, language like this makes sense to us because we worship the Triune God (Father, Son, Spirit). The Spirit is active within us, knowing us completely and progressively sanctifying us, making us more like Christ. If the Spirit is at work, then why should I profess anything with my mouth? That is the real question here. It is the question of the whole verse. God has chosen to put it into our minds he condescends to all our thoughts.
Prayer is a gift and an attitude we bear. We are given the gift to freely worship and speak of, with, and to the king of glory…in his presence. When we desire after the True and Listening God it changes how we see ourselves and it changes how we speak to God. If I cry out to the “O God” like David does, then it doesn’t matter what I think of myself because I’m focused on the Judge of my secrets. Psalm 54:1 already notes I am saved, therefore, by grace I’m able to live out a prayed-life compared to the old dead person in me who didn’t mind living against God. The Christian who is actively seeking to savor God’s glory will live out a life led by the Spirit.
- O God, – a sincere heart crying out to know more of who God is.
- hear my prayer; – a call to Gracious God to know everything in the heart and mind of the person praying. No mention of holding anything back from the Spirit who searches the heart. HEAR, orients the person praying to let God change and transform all of the stuff of personal life. This is a demanding submission, as oxymoronic and as beautiful as it may sound.
- give ear to the words of my mouth. – a confession of repentance, acknowledging all prayer as petition; to ask for God’s knowledge, God’s grace, and God’s action.
Let us pray this week the way we see prayer in Psalm 54; with complete gaze on the God who is awesome and powerful, glorious and gracious. God knows us and hears us. Prayer is not seeking God to change his plans, but praise in profession of who God is and how that profession changes who you are. Pray all things to God and by so doing, let your vision of God transform your life this week.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1898; Repr., Mineola, NY: Dover, 2013), 274.