Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
– Psalm 6
In one form or another the most common prayer in the Bible and in our own lives is simply one word: ‘Help.’ Okay, sometimes it’s two words: ‘Help, now!’
Many of the Psalms are like this and today’s psalm certainly fits into that category. We don’t know the exact circumstances of its composition but there is a profound sense of personal failure. David has somehow stirred up God’s wrath (v1). If you know anything of David’s life there’s more than a few occasions which might fit that particular bill. Paul tells the Roman Christians that we’re all sinners (Romans 3.23) and that frank acknowledgment is part of what we do when we worship together as a family as well as being something we confess in our personal prayers.
God loves us so much he takes our sin seriously, he wants us to change, he believes in better and sometimes that means we experience God’s discipline. David pleads with God to heal him (v2) but the healing process itself can be painful.
One of the constant cries throughout the Psalm’s is ‘How long?’ David’s plight is so bad that he fears that he has no future, he is physically and mentally exhausted. At this point all the self-help books in the world are of no avail, David simply appeals to God’s ‘unfailing love’ (v4).
It is that reminder of God’s commitment to us that makes the difference. In the final verses of the Psalm there is a massive change. David’s mood swings from despair to defiance. There is light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness and the discipline don’t last forever but the unfailingly loving and merciful God has heard his prayer and will deliver him.
The Psalm reminds us that prayer makes a difference because God listens and makes a commitment to act. It is that belief that even in the middle of great distress enables us to face the present and the future with renewed hope and confidence.