A Prayer for the Present Moment
When were you the happiest in your life? Why did this time provide so many memories?
For the Chief Musician; on stringed instruments. A Psalm by David.
1 Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness.
Give me relief from my distress.
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
2 You sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor?
Will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood?
3 But know that YHWH has set apart for himself him who is
YHWH will hear when I call to him.
4 Stand in awe, and don’t sin.
Search your own heart on your bed, and be still.
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.
Put your trust in YHWH.
6 Many say, “Who will show us any good?”
YHWH, let the light of your face shine on us.
7 You have put gladness in my heart,
more than when their grain and their new wine are increased.
8 In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep,
for you, YHWH alone, make me live in safety.
World English Bible
Almost everyone can point to a time in life when they were deeply happy. For some, courtship and marriage were those times of joy. For others, high school or college days stand out. Some even point to the birth of children. In hindsight, some events stand out as times to savor.
Then, there are times that are unpleasant. Events can verge on tragic; the burdens of daily life become overwhelming. These are the times we might reminisce in the experiences of our youth, even indulge in melancholy. Then, we might pray for better times ahead.
Why are some times better than others? Why do some yearn for the “good old days” or look forward to the “green pastures” that lie ahead? Isn’t today enough? These were the kind of questions Psalm 4 posed. It was a prayer of supplication that could be divided into three sections: 1) call for God’s answer (4:1) from the criticism of enemies (4:2), a reminder of God’s power and the need for faith in the Lord (4:3-5), and the popular prayer for better times (4:5) with the caveat that the present can give more joy than any imagined future (4:5-8). These three sections created an implied dialogue between the person under attack and the desire to escape to a better time.
Notice night time sleep marked the test of happiness. 4:5 had the imperative to cease sinning and to reflect in silence on one’s bed. 4:8 was an act of faith that the faithful person could lie down and sleep in the peace only the Lord could provide. Sleep was a time of restoration and rest; dreams were also a means for God to reveal his will. For the ancient Jew (and many modern believers), the quantity and quality of sleep implied a test for a clear conscience and a place close to the Lord.
There is certainly nothing wrong with fondly remembering the past or planning for the future. But, should we look behind or ahead for some sense of spiritual fulfillment? If we do, we will only play a game of “what was?” or “what could be?” and not “what is.” If nothing else, Psalm 4 plants us in the spiritual present. We might not have everything we want, but God gives us all we need for now and that is more than enough.
Take time to consider how God provides for you at this moment. Despite your desires for better times, thank him for his providence.