After we spent five days tracking the downfall of Simon Peter—and hearing his thrice-repeated denial of being associated with Jesus—these words from this psalmist are stunning: you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress (v. 3). This pray-er is confident: my steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped (v. 5). Because of this rectitude, this poet feels sure God will attend to my cry and give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit (v. 1).
When we hear such language, we assume that it is the speech of someone who is either extremely young or shallow. This sounds like self-righteous egotism just begging to be humbled. But this psalm bears the title “A Prayer of David.” Although the inscription alone does not mean that David necessarily spoke these words, it causes me to take a second look.
I remember occasions when, like the psalmist, I also faced opposition and prayed with the assurance that I and my cause were much more deserving of God’s help than those who were dealing me grief. At least, in comparison with “them,” I was cleaner than a whistle. In attitude I felt like God “owed me one.”
Perhaps the reason I dislike Psalm 17 is because it reminds me too much of prayers I have prayed. No doubt the petitioner of this text and I both need to learn the spirit of another prayer attributed to David—Psalm 51—the one that begins: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”
What attitudes and self-understandings do you bring to your times of prayer?
“Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.” Amen.