I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
What a marvelous example David sets for us with those words! Clearly, he found himself in some difficulty. He felt as though his feet were bogged down in some “miry clay” (v.2). We don’t know exactly what the trial was. The rest of the psalm simply reveals, in fairly non-specific terms, that David was facing opposition of some sort – slander, hostility, and perhaps the threat of violence. It may even be, as was sometimes the case, that the mud was being slung from within his own family circle. Perhaps David also bore some of the blame for what was taking place (v.12). But, whatever the specific details, David found himself (v.1) feeling as though he were stuck in quicksand.
And yet, instead of flailing and kicking and just making things worse – as those trapped in quicksand proverbially do – David, instead, issued a “cry” to the Lord. He prayed in the midst of his struggle! That may sound obvious. But as with so many things that are obvious in the Bible, I'm not always so good at actually doing what David did. Perhaps you're not either. ‘Of course we should pray when we’re in difficulty’ we say as we read Psalm 40.1. But how many times, when our own feet are in the quicksand, do we thrash instead of praying? How much energy do we sometimes expend, trying to get ourselves out of the problem, before we think to stop and pray for God’s help?
And when we do stop to pray, isn’t it often true that our prayers can quickly turn from talking to God to merely brainstorming more human solutions? We pace up and down the room, telling ourselves that we are praying. But really we’re mostly just rehashing the problem, and talking to ourselves a great deal more than to God. At least that’s what I find myself doing many times! And yet God is still merciful to answer the bits and pieces of prayer I actually send up!
David, however, seems not to have been so distracted as me! When in trouble, David issued a “cry” to the Lord – and not a quick bottle-rocket prayer to salve his conscience before he began employing the solution he himself had already brainstormed. No! David didn’t simply pray God’s blessing on his own ideas, and then immediately get to work pulling himself out of the muck. He prayed … and then he “waited.” He asked God to get him out of the mess, and then he patiently sat by to see what God would do! And, O, we ought to learn from that!
Sometimes, of course, the difficulties we find ourselves in require immediate action and attention. If your child falls and cracks his head open, you say a quick prayer while you’re scooping him up in your arms … and then you immediately jump in the car and head to the emergency room, praying all the way. But many of our problems need not be dealt with quite that urgently. Therefore, many times, instead of praying about some problem, and immediately doing what we can toward solving it … we need to pray about the problem (perhaps with fasting!), and then keep praying about it – perhaps for a week, or two weeks, or a month – waiting to see what God will do. Perhaps God will reveal a course of action you would not have thought of if you’d acted more quickly. Perhaps your heart – or the heart of the person you’re praying about – will be more prepared for the appropriate solution after a season of prayer. Perhaps God will solve the problem without you actually having to do anything at all … if you will only wait for Him to do so!
So let Psalm 40.1 be your watchword when you find yourself in difficulty: “I waited patiently for the LORD.” If you do so in faith, it will not be long until you will also be able to say: “and He inclined to me and heard my cry.”