Reflection on Psalms 54 to 58 (Scripture references are from NIV, except where noted)
In reflecting on Psalms 54 to 57 I noticed some common and recurring themes which I believe can help us become more deliberate and disciplined in our prayers. (Psalm 58 is different from the others in many respects as it does not share these common themes. See comments below). Although these psalms by King David (or attributed to him) are deeply personal and specific to his life and times, we all face difficulties and we turn to God for help. The common themes in Psalms 54 to 57 that I find helpful may be summarized as follows. Like King David, we need to:
- Call to God for help
- Be specific about our situation
- Pray fervently (and “without ceasing”)
- Give praise and thanksgiving
- Call to God for help. Examples of this recurring theme can be found in these verses:
“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” (Psalm 54:2)
“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;” (Psalm 55:1)
“I cry out to God Most High, … .” (Psalm 57:2).
We can reach out to God in prayer for our own needs and that of others.
- Be specific about our situation. King David is very specific in his prayers and open about his feelings. For example, he expresses “fear” and “horror” (Psalm 55:5), being deeply hurt by a disloyal friend (Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21), being “distraught” (Psalm 55:2), he wants to run away and hide (Psalm 55:6-8) etc. The message here is that I need be open and honest about what’s facing me (fears, relationship issues, troubling thoughts, guilt etc.).
- Pray fervently (and “without ceasing”). King David is fervent in his prayer promising to “call to God … Evening, morning and noon.” (Psalm 55:16-17). We are also reminded about this in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says to “pray without ceasing” (ESV).
- Trust. There are numerous examples in these psalms showing that King David trusted that God heard his prayers: “Surely God is my help; …” (Psalm 54:4). “But as for me, I trust in you.” (Psalm 55:23). “in God I trust; I will not be afraid…” (Psalm 56:11).
- Give praise and thanksgiving. These psalms are filled with praise and thanksgiving and words of exaltation: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; …” (Psalm 57:5). “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations … .” (Psalm 57:9). “… I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling …” (Psalm 56:12-13). May this be a reminder to include praise and thanksgiving in my prayers.
Psalm 58. This psalm is different from Psalms 54 to 57 in that it deals almost exclusively with King David’s adversaries and his prayers to have God punish them for their injustice and wicked ways. From a commentary, I understand King David’s anger is directed at Saul because of the animosity between the two as Saul had attempted the life of David.