This is indeed the "pouring out of the soul before the Lord," a beautiful and encouraging picture of a soul wrestling with God, in a few short sentences, with as much power and success as in the most continued length of supplication. Brief as are the petitions, the whole compass of language could not make them more comprehensive. Hear me. The whole heart is engaged in the cry. Save me—includes a sinner's whole need—pardon, acceptance, access, holiness, strength, comfort, heaven, all in one word—Christ. Save me—from myself, from Satan, from the world, from the curse of sin, from the wrath of God. This is the need of every moment to the end. I cried unto You.—What a mercy to know where to go! The way of access must have been implied, though not mentioned, in these short ejaculations. Hear me—must have been in the name of the all-prevailing Advocate. Save me—through Him, whose name is, Jesus the Savior. A moment's interruption of our view of Jesus casts for the time an impenetrable cloud over our way to God, and paralyzes the spirit of prayer. Prayer is not only the sense of guilt, and the cry of mercy, but the exercise of faith. When I come to God, I would always bring with me the blood of Christ—my price—my plea in my hand. He cannot cast it out. Thus am I "a prince, that has power with God, and prevail." Here is the warrant to believe, that my God does, and will hear me. Here is my encouragement to "look up"—to be "watching at His gate"—like the cripple at the "beautiful gate of the temple, expecting to receive somewhat of Him." Not a word of such prayer is lost. It is as seed—not cast into the earth, exposed to hazard and loss—but cast into the bosom of God—and here—as in the natural harvest, "he which sows bountifully, shall reap also bountifully." The most frequent comers are the largest receivers—always wanting—always asking—living upon what they have, but still hungering for more.
With many, however, the ceremony of prayer is everything, without any thought, desire, anxiety, or waiting for an answer. These slight dealings prove low thoughts of God, and deep and guilty insensibility;—that the sense of pressing need is not sharp enough to put an edge upon the affections. But are none of God's dear children, too, who in days past never missed the presence of God, but they "sought it carefully with tears"—now too easily satisfied with the act of prayer, without this "great object of it—the enjoyment of God?" Perhaps you lament your deficiencies, your weakness in the hour of temptation, your indulgence of ease, your unfaithfulness of heart. But is your cry continually ascending with your whole heart? Your soul would not be so empty of comfort, if your mouth were not so empty of prayer. The Lord never charges presumption upon the frequency or extent of your supplications; but He is often ready to "upbraid you with your unbelief," that you are so reluctant in your approach, and so straitened in your desires—that you are so unready to receive what He is so ready to give—that your vessels are too narrow to take in His full blessing—that you are content with drops, when He has promised "floods,"—yes "rivers of living water,"—and above all, that you are so negligent in praising Him for what you have already received.
We must not lightly give up our suit. We must not be content with keeping up the duty, without keeping up "continued instancy in prayer" in our duty. This alone preserves in temptation. Satan strikes at all of God in the soul. Unbelief readily yields to his suggestions. This is the element in which we live—the warfare of every moment. Will then the customary devotion of morning and evening (even supposing it to be sincere) suffice for such an emergency? No. The Christian must "put on the whole armor of God;" and buckle on His panoply with unceasing "prayer and watchfulness in the Spirit." If his heart be dead and cold, let him rather cry and wait as Luther was used to do, until it be warm and enlivened. The hypocrite, indeed, would be satisfied with the barren performance of the duty. But the child of God, while he mourns in the dust, "Behold I am vile!"—still holds on, though sometimes with a cry, that probably finds no utterance with his lips, that vents itself only with tears, or "groanings that cannot be uttered." And shall such a cry fail to enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth? The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my groaning is not hid from You.
But why is the believer so earnest for an audience?—why so restless in his cries for salvation? Is it not, that he loves the statutes of his God; that he is grieved on account of his inability to keep them; and that he longs for mercy, as the spring of his obedience? Hear me; I will keep Your statutes. Save me: and I shall keep Your testimonies—a most satisfactory evidence of an upright heart. Sin can have no fellowship with the statutes. As saved sinners, they are our delight.
Lord! You know how our hearts draw back from the spiritual work of prayer: and how we nourish our unbelief by our distance from You. Oh, "pour upon us this Spirit of grace and supplication." "Teach us to pray"—even our hearts—our whole hearts—to cry unto You. Give us the privilege of real communion with You—the only satisfying joy of earth or heaven. Then shall we "run the way of Your commandments, when You shall enlarge our hearts."
"I cried with my whole heart." His prayer was a sincere, plaintive, painful, natural utterance, as of a creature in pain. We cannot tell whether at all times he used his voice when he thus cried; but we are informed of something which is of much greater consequence—he cried with his heart. Heart-cries are the essence of prayer. He mentions the unity of his heart in this holy engagement. His whole soul pleaded with God: his entire affections, his united desires, all went out towards the living God. It is well when a man can say as much as this of his prayers: it is to be feared that many never cried to God with their whole heart in all their lives. There may be no beauty of elocution about such prayers, no length of expression, no depth of doctrine nor accuracy of diction; but if the whole heart be in them they will find their way to the heart of God.
"Hear me, O LORD." He desires of Jehovah that his cries may not die upon the air, but that God may have respect to them. True supplicants are not satisfied with the exercise itself, they have an end and object in praying, and they look out for it If God does not hear prayer we pray in vain. The term "hear" is often used in Scripture to express attention and consideration. In one sense God hears every sound that is made on earth, and every desire of every heart; but David meant much more: he desired a kindly, sympathetic hearing, such as a physician gives to his patient when he tells him his pitiful story. He asked that the Lord would draw near, and listen with friendly ear to the voice of his complaint, with the view of pitying him and helping him. Observe, that his wholehearted prayer goes to the Lord alone; he has no second hope or help. "Hear me, O LORD," is the full range of his petition and expectation.
"I will keep your statutes." He could not expect the Lord to hear him if he did not hear the Lord, neither would it be true that he prayed with his whole heart unless it was manifest that he labored with all his might to be obedient to the divine will. His object in seeking deliverance was that he might be free to fulfill his religion, free to carry out every ordinance of the law, free to serve the Lord.
Note well that a holy resolution goes well with an importunate supplication: David is determined to be holy, his whole heart goes with that resolve as well as with his prayers. He will keep God's statutes in his memory, in his affections, and in his actions. He will not willfully neglect nor willingly violate any one of the divine laws.