Psalm 4 – An Evening Prayer

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

This psalm will teach us how to talk with God, especially as we prepare for sleep. It will help us reach a place of stillness, as we seek to “rest” in the Lord.

The contrast in this Psalm is between people who rely on something other than God to solve their problems and those who fully rely on God.

The setting, when King David first prayed this prayer, was a time of drought. Like today, when we are faced with corona virus, hurricanes, forest fires, racial tensions, and high unemployment the question is where do we turn in the time of trouble?

People who opposed David turned to the false god, Baal. Baal was a fertility god, who promised rain if people served him. Serving Baal included child sacrifice and pagan fertility rites complete with both male and female prostitutes.

The prayer of the king is a great model for how to talk to God, when trouble arises. Let’s use Psalm 4 as a model to make this prayer our own as we turn all of our daily problems over to him prior to sleep.

I call on God

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
(Psalm 4.1)

Consider the words of Isaiah.

For thus says the high and lofty one
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
(Isaiah 57.15)

Even though God is infinitely greater than humankind, he forms relationships with people who are crushed, contrite, and humble. When our self-sufficient pride has given way to humility, we can use the words of Psalm 4 and ask God to “answer” us, to “be gracious” to us, and to “hear” our prayer.

We can be confident that God will make space for us, when we are being squeezed by troubles.

In times of trouble, who do you call?

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
(Psalm 4.2-3)

Baal was a fertility god that their neighbors worshiped. Baal worship involved temple prostitution, child sacrifice, and the kissing of the Baal idol.

The people were tempted to divide their loyalties. They would worship the One True God of Israel on one hand, and at the same time engage in Baal rites attempting to get the rains that they needed.

These divided loyalties may look strange until we ask some probing questions of ourselves. How strongly do we rely on our bank accounts to feel secure? How much energy do we give to the political process, believing that our future revolves with decisions made by government?

In contrast to attempting to use the false gods of this world for our own advantage, verse 3 declared complete dependence on and confidence in God.

The way through trouble

The speaker counsels people who are tempted to follow false gods and gives them instruction on how to get through trouble.

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
(Psalm 4.4-5)

When we are tempted to worry about our bank account, the political process, or some other substitute for dependence on God, we are encouraged to go to a quiet place and meditate on what is God’s will for our lives.

Like an erring child being told by a parent to think things over, the writes says in effect: “Go to your bedroom. Think things over. Don’t come out until you get your thinking right.”

Instead of hardening our hearts in self-confidence and excessive pride, we allow God’s Spirit to rule us.

Verse 5 provides another piece of advice. We are to act our way into faith and trust. When we keep on doing the next right thing that God has already shown us to do, we will find our trust growing and maturing.

Turn from troubles and trust in God

As we persist in prayer, we are able to turn our attention away from the troubles we face so that we can trust in God.

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
(Psalm 4.6-8)

The Psalm ends with an echo of the blessing that Moses gave to Aaron to speak over the people.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Numbers 6.24-26)

The purpose of Aaron’s blessing was stated in the next verse: “So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6.27). God’s NAME is the revelation of his nature and character.

When we are connected to God’s character and nature, we can count on his blessing. Prayer is the connection. We know more of God’s NAME, his character and nature, through prayer. We learn to be confident in his activity, as we keep on doing the next right thing that he shows us. In every way, we can “rest” in his activity on our behalf.

How to pray Psalm 4

Psalm 4 is a perfect “tool” to use when we are troubled and unable to sleep. When the problems of life swirl around in our minds like an tape player that keeps on spinning, it is often difficult to sleep.

The inability to sleep is a sign that God wants us to pray. In the stillness of our bedroom, we can examine what is our concern. Have we been turning to a substitute for God to solve our problem? Are we giving our attention and energy to something or someone that is not the True and Living God?

Are there things that God has instructed us to do, but we have stopped doing? If so, when we return to doing what God has called us to do we will also find our faith in God growing.

If you have a Bible you don’t mind marking, underline all of the requests that the writer makes of God. Prayerfully consider the words, “answer me,” “be gracious to me,” “hear my prayer,” and “shine on us.” God is with the contrite, the broken and humble. He will respond to your appeal.

Let’s join together and pray the blessing Moses that instructed Aaron to pray.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Numbers 6.24-26)

2 Comments

  1. One of my favorite songs on the radio today is “The Blessing” based on this verse – when I hear it and sing along, my mind races through lists of people who need this blessing. How powerful to be able to pray over people “The Lord bless you, and keep you, make His face shine upon you…and give you peace….”

    Liked by 1 person

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