I am laid low in the dust
Preserve my life according to your word.
This section of the great poem is written in a deeply emotional state – a state of mind which cannot see any way out and a place of the dry spirit. In such time, our prayer should be for God to preserve our life, so that we continue to live, because if we persist, we are guaranteed to enjoy gladness again. His word will bring us life if we are patient. God’s promises are and always have been to extend our life, both in time and in depth – to give more to us and to multiply us by his miraculous power. In this he will never fail us.
I recounted my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
Confession underpins this sincere and repeated request: teach me!
Let me understand the teaching of your precepts
then I will meditate on your wonders.
Because God holds understanding and at the moment they are mysteries to me, we should ask to understand why he has said what he has, and this will bring us to worship when we can read between the lines!
My soul is weary with sorrow,
strengthen me according to your word.
A weak soul is indecisive and takes no pleasure in anything – only God’s Spirit – his Word – speaking to us in our secret place can stir us up again.
Keep me from deceitful ways,
be gracious to me according to your law.
If we pray like this God will show us what to do, but also he will intervene. We do not believe, as some think, that God simply gives us morality to live by, but that he himself wants to share our life, and that means expecting to see him work, get involved, and roll up his sleeves. His law of love, his law of obedience, is the way of showing and acting out grace to us.
I have chosen the way of truth;
I have set my heart on your laws.
Other things must come second. As the old chorus goes, I have decided to follow Jesus. This is an exclusive statement – we choose truth and God’s law and Jesus’ example over every other way and path in the world. Other things will have to happen later, or perhaps we won’t bother with them at all. If we walk the way of truth we will have no time for deceit and untruth – either self-deceit or dishonesty towards others.
I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord,
do not let me be put to shame.
This holding fast will be a tight grip – the grip of Psalm 63, ‘My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me’.
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free!
When I was walking the Pennine way over Ickornshaw Moor I prayed for strength to walk a bit further, when I needed to make camp and there was nowhere good to camp. But instead of a little strength, I felt the joy of the Lord come upon me, as in Isaiah 40:31, and I felt the eagle’s wings and with the bag that was as heavy as it had been for the previous eleven miles, I began to run!