Written by: Tim Wood
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
1 I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. 2 I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.5 I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
Here we go again. David is in another cave, hiding and afraid (see Psalm 57). A cave for David was a refuge of safety but it was also like a prison (see verse 7). David didn’t plan on being in a cave, but he finds himself there. We find ourselves in caves for various reasons. No, not a literal cave, but a situation that makes us feel imprisoned. We may feel down and not want to see anyone – cave. That awkward feeling when we see someone we’ve wronged or that has wronged us, so we try to avoid them – cave. We may feel like no one understands or cares how we are feeling – cave. One thing we can learn from David, caves make great places to pray to God. Caves are effective classrooms in our journey with God. Here’s the spectrum of David’s life: He’s in a cave and he finds God in prayer. He’s in the palace and he finds Bathsheba. A cave for David was an opportunity to pray. When we find ourselves in circumstances that are trying, call out to God in believing prayer.
David cries aloud to the LORD. He’s not thinking these word in silent prayer he’s articulating them. It’s good for our ears to hear our prayers. He’s lifting his voice to God. He’s pouring out his complaint. I think it’s good and it’s healthy to pray to God out loud.
David is acknowledging God’s sufficiency in his prayer, “It is you who know my way” (v.3). God knows us and our path. Jesus said that God knows what you need before you even ask Him. And yet, he wants us to ask Him. Why pray, then? Prayer, in part, is to help us recognize and verbalize our needs, so that we consciously depend on God to supply those needs. God is sufficient.
David is recognizing God as his portion and protection (v.5). Jonathan Edwards wrote, “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on, anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?” (From his sermon, “The Christian Pilgrim”). God is our best portion in life.
David prays with expectation in verse 7, “Set me free that I may praise your name.” If your troubles do not lead you to go deeper in faith and prayer, you’re missing the lesson of the cave! Let your loneliness, gloom, and despair make you cry out to the Lord to bring your soul out of prison, so that you may give thanks to His name! The Lord knows you’re there. Use the cave to cry out to God in prayer.