The Prayer of the Poor and NeedyFrancis Bourdillon, 1864
Psalm 70:1-5. "Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, 'Aha! Aha!' turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, 'Let God be exalted!' Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!"
God invites us to go to Him freely in all our troubles. He is not angry with us for telling Him just what we feel. Indeed, we may speak to Him in such a way as we would hardly dare to speak to a fellow-creature. I do not mean that we are to speak to God without the deepest reverence. Freely as we may approach Him through Jesus Christ — we must yet always bear in mind the greatness and holiness of God, and our own weakness and sinfulness.
There is no lack of reverence in this Psalm. With all his earnestness, David never forgets to whom he is speaking. He uses no familiar, irreverent words, but calls upon God by His great Name, "O God," "O Lord." But he dares to tell God just what he is feeling and fearing and wishing. He had many and bitter enemies, and it seems that they were at that time very much set against him. Perhaps this Psalm was written at the time when Saul was pursuing him, in order to put him to death. At all events — he had then enemies, wicked men, who wanted to do him harm.
Under these circumstances, what does David do? He tells all to God in prayer and seeks His help. He does not, as some do when they are in fear — give way to fretting and complaining. He does indeed complain, but it is to God, in supplication and prayer, that he makes his complaint; not murmuring and repining — but humbly putting his case into God's hands, and asking His help and protection. This is what God invites us to do, and this is what we ought to do in all our troubles.
If we are sick — then we may pray about our sickness. If we are anxious for any whom we love — then we may pray on their behalf. If we are poor — then we may pray that our needs may be supplied. If we know not what to do — then we may pray for guidance. There is no trouble about which we may not pray. David prayed in all his troubles — and so may we, and so we ought to do.
God is so gracious that He lets us pray to Him with all possible earnestness, begging and entreating Him to help us. See how David prays: "Hasten, O God, to save me. O LORD, come quickly to help me. Come quickly to me, O God. O LORD, do not delay!" Is not David too bold here? We would hardly venture to speak so, even to a fellow-creature of whom we were asking a favor: "Hasten to do it for me. Hasten to give it to me." Yet David spoke so to God, and he was not rebuked. It was his feeling of need, and his earnest desire, and his knowing that none but God could help him — that made him pray so. We see this in the last verse: "Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!" And so God was not angry with him.
Yet we must not be impatient in prayer. We may be sure that David was not impatient, though he said, "Hasten to help me." Sometimes people are impatient when they pray; and then, if they do not seem to get what they ask for directly — they leave off praying, as if it were of no use. We must not pray so. When we are in sore and grievous trouble, when our pain is so sharp that we can hardly bear it, or when some great danger seems close at hand — then we are not wrong in praying with all the pressing earnestness of David, "Hasten to help me, O God!"
But even then there must be no impatience in our prayer. All depends on the feeling of the heart. If it is only great earnestness which leads us to pray so — then we are right; if it is impatience — then we are wrong. For God knows better than we do, what is the best time to help us, and often it is for our good that we should be kept waiting awhile. Yet even then, He hears all our prayers, and we must still pray on in faith and patience.
David calls himself "poor and needy." We are always poor and needy in ourselves, for we depend upon God for everything — and have nothing but what He gives us. But sometimes we are brought into circumstances when we feel our need more than usual — and then it is that we pray most earnestly. Is not this the very reason for which God brings us into such difficult circumstances? Is it not to lead us to pray?
David also speaks of salvation: "Those who love Your salvation." What does he mean? Most likely, only being saved from temporal trouble and danger. But there is a greater salvation — the salvation of the soul. This is what we should desire most, and this is what we should chiefly pray about. No outward deliverance, no relief from trouble, danger or pain — will fully supply our need. If we would be really safe and happy, we must seek a share in Christ's salvation. David says further, "Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually: Let God be magnified!" How encouraging is this! It seems to assure us that all who seek God aright, shall find in Him joy and gladness and salvation. And we may seek Him; we may all seek Him, however unworthy in ourselves; and He Himself has taught us how to seek Him aright. Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7).
He Himself is the way. No man comes unto the Father, but by Him (John 14:6). He is our Mediator and Advocate. Once He died for our sins, and now He is at God's right hand to plead for us. God will always hear us, when we pray to Him through Jesus Christ. He will help us and comfort us in all our troubles. But above all, He will forgive us our sins and save our souls. Then we shall indeed love His salvation, when we have sought and found a share in it ourselves. And then in all our troubles, we shall praise Him as well as pray to Him. No trouble can rob us of our Savior. No sickness can take away our God from us. And so, while we pray to Him earnestly in every trouble as it comes — we shall give Him our grateful thanks too, and say continually, "Let God be magnified!"