I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3 ESV)
David, the inspired author, explained that he waited for the Lord intently and exclusively. He waited “patiently,” in Hebrew it reads: “Waiting I waited on the LORD.” This was not some instance of merely throwing out a prayer into the spiritual realm and seeing if someone would answer it. Rather he laid his need on the doorstep of God and did not move away from the Lord. He knew of and trusted in no other Help other than the God of the Bible.
There is also an idea of expectancy in the Hebrew word “wait.” He trusted that God would answer. God was not reluctant and needed to be convinced. God turned to help David not because of the earnestness of his faith or because of the sincerity of his heart. God did not change His holy mind about David. He was already predisposed to help, to bless, to deliver, and to rescue. David’s prayer merely tapped into the already present love and faithfulness in God’s heart toward him. David’s faith was faith in the eternal and faithful love of the eternal God.
Faith as We Pray
We should realize that faith in God is not the belief that our calling on Him can change His heart toward us. That is faith in ourselves or faith in our powers of persuasion. No. Faith in God is faith that He already cares for us, that He is already predisposed to help us. We go to Him not to convince Him to care, but we go to Him because we believe He already cares.
The nations have prayed to their gods for millennia as though they were blind to human needs and uncaring in their affections. “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:32). Christian and biblical faith is confidence in the eternal love of God, “And underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).
God “inclined to me,” and this Hebrew word carries the idea of stretching out or bending down to hear, like one would bend down and cup his hand against his ear to hear a small child. God “heard my cry,” David said – a “cry,” and not a logical, coherent argument. God hears the cries, thoughts, fears, desires, and imperfectly phrased prayers of our hearts, “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26). It is good to pray biblical prayers, to pray theologically correct prayers, but thank God it is not necessary. Were it necessary to do so, then none of us could truly pray at all. God the Father listens to us like a loving earthly father listens to the child he loves.
The Lord answered David and “drew him out” of the miry pit – a pit where there was no solid foothold, where David could not figure a means of escape. We are not told the precise circumstances that David had in mind when he wrote this psalm, but he described his own physical and material deliverance. The deliverance from that specific event that David experienced encourages us that God will physically and materially deliver us as well. This was not a pit of the heart alone, or of the worries of the mind alone. It was a pit of despair, but still a genuine pit.
Never be hesitant to take your physical and material needs to God. Often our problems persist due to prayerlessness. As James said: we have not because we ask not (James 4:1-4). Oh, surely we can ask “amiss,” that we might “consume it upon our lusts.” But too often we do not ask at all, rather we take matters into our own hands and try to reason with our own human logic out a way of the pit – as Sarah and Abraham did with the birth of Ishmael.
Certainly physical and material problems have the potential to purify our hearts and help us to think through our requests. This is one of the benefit of our struggles. I remember a mother praying that in her son’s sickness that his football career would be spared, and then as the sickness persisted, she prayed that his life would be spared, and finally that his ministry would be spared. Too often our desires are shallow and selfish and trouble helps to purify us.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
We Are often the Object of Prayer
God not only delivered David but He also delivered his heart. God delivered him physically so that He might deliver him spiritually. “He set my feet upon a rock” describes the physical deliverance, “and put a new song in my mouth” describes the inner and spiritual deliverance.
There are times that we pray for others and for their needs. Prayer is not merely a selfish pursuit. But when we ourselves have a need in our lives, the need of our heart is always the greater need. We need not only material and physical rescue, but we need the inner confidence of heart that God will save and deliver us from harm. The same Hebrew word for “drew up” in Psalm 40:2 is used also in Isaiah 40:31: “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Our faith moves our own hearts more than it moves heaven.
David changed from his focus on his own personal concern – which was a real and genuine need – to not only praising God but also to a ministry of helping others praise God as well. “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” And faith in God, if we have it at all, will not only lead to confidence in our own deliverance but also a commitment of heart to God’s priorities for our lives.
Praise is evidence of faith. God is worthy of all praise, and our hearts should praise Him. Praising God is right and our hearts know this, so praise is enjoyable for a Christian. When we praise the One who loves us, and whom we love, we know in our hearts that this is right. Yet, even so, some times praise can become a bit selfish – praising God because of how it makes us feel. True praise should result not in a selfish orgy of emotions, but in godly compassion in our own hearts for others.
Remember, when in that high moment of revelation and praise Peter wanted to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration, Christ led them down into the valley where demoniacs needed their help.
So, real need, led to deep prayer. God’s answer led to physical deliverance, and spiritual rejoicing, and genuine compassion for others. May it be so in our lives as well.