The Psalmist here brings before us not only the fervency, but the seasons, of his supplication. Like Daniel, he had set times of prayer, "three times a-day." Yet did not this frequent exercise satisfy him, without an habitual "waiting all the day upon his God." Prayer was indeed his meat, and drink, and breath. "I give myself unto prayer." His sketch of the "blessed man delighting in the law of his God, and"—as an evidence of this delight, "meditating therein day and night"—unconsciously furnished an accurate picture of himself. For early and late was he found in the work of God; preventing the dawning of the morning for prayer, and again the night-watches, that he might meditate in the word. But to look above the example of David to David's Lord—surely "it was written" most peculiarly "for our learning," that Jesus—after a laborious Sabbath—every moment of which appears to have been spent for the benefit of sinners; and when His body, subject to the same infirmities, and therefore needing the same refreshment with our own, seemed to require repose, "in the morning, rising up a great while before day, went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." On another occasion, when intensely engaged in the service of His church, and about to lay her foundation in the choice of her first ministers, did His eyes prevent the night-watches. "He continued all night in prayer to God."
So long as the duty only of prayer is known, we shall be content with our set seasons. But when the privilege is felt, we shall be early at work, following it closely morning and night. While, however, family and social exercises are refreshing—while "the tabernacles of the Lord are amiable" in our view, and we delight to "wait at the posts of His doors;" yet it is the lonely, confidential communion with our God, "the door shut"—the Church as well as the world excluded—that makes our closest walk with God. Secret prayer is most likely to be true prayer. At least there is no true prayer without it. It was the "garden" prayer—separate even from His own disciples—that brought special support to the fainting humanity of Jesus. And if He needed this perfect retirement, whose affections were always fixed upon their center, what must be our own need, whose desires are so unstable and languishing! And how cheering is His succoring sympathy, knowing as He does experimentally the heart of a secret, earnest pleader! Such, doubtless, were David's cries—penetrating no ear, but His Father's—yet delightful incense there.
But to see the King of Israel, with all His urgent responsibilities, "sanctifying" such frequent daily seasons "with the word of God and prayer"—how does it expose the insincerity of the worldling's excuse, that the pressing avocations of the day afford no time for the service of God! It is not, that such men are busy, and have no time for prayer; but that they are worldly, and have no heart to pray. The consecrated heart will always find time for secret duties, and will rather, as David, redeem it from sleep, than lose it from prayer.
And does not the uniform experience of the Lord's people warrant the remark—how much our vital spirituality depends upon the daily consecration of the first-fruits of our time to the Lord? How often are opportunities for heavenly communion during the day unavoidably straitened! But the night watches and the dawning of the morning afford seasons free from interruption, when our God expects to hear from us, and when "the joy" of "fellowship with Him" will be "our strength" for active service, and our preservation from many a worldly snare. What a standard of enjoyment would it be, with our last thoughts in the night watches, to leave as it were our hearts with Him, and to find them with Him in the morning, awaking as with our hearts in heaven! Surely the refreshments of our visits to Him, and His abidance with us, will often constrain us to acknowledge, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." The thoughts of God were clearly the first visitors to David's waking mind; and to this may be ascribed his habitual success in realizing His presence throughout the day. The lukewarmness and our want of spiritual enjoyment may often be traced to that morning indolence, which not only throws the business of the day into confusion, but also consumes the time in self-indulgence or trifling, which should have been given to sacred communion. For—not to speak of the seasonableness of the early hours for devotion—the very exertion made to overcome "this lust of the flesh," and to steal a march upon the demands of the world, is an exercise of self-denial, honorable to God, "that shall in no wise lose its reward." No remembrance of the past will be so refreshing at a dying hour, as the time redeemed for communion with God.
And, even should there be no actual enjoyment, at least let us honor God by expectancy. I hoped in Your word. There can be no exercise of faith in the neglect of prayer; but the ground of faith, and that which gives to it life, hope, and joy, is the view of God in His word as a promising God. Therefore when His Providence opens no present encouragement, let us seek it in His covenant. To hope in His word is to build up ourselves upon "our most holy faith" and to lay all our desires, all our cares, all our weights, and burdens, upon a solid, unsinking foundation.
Well, therefore, were David's night-watches employed in meditation in the word. For, in order to stay ourselves upon it in time of need, it must occupy our whole study, thought, and desire. Instability of faith arises from a want of fixed recollection of the promises of God. This superficial habit may suffice for times of quietness; but amid the billows of temptation we can only cast "anchor sure and steadfast" in an habitual and intelligent confidence upon the full, free, firm promise of the word. Let it therefore be the food of our meditation, and the ground of our support, when our suit seems to hang at the throne of grace without any tokens of present acceptance. Often will it lift up our fainting hands, and supply strength for fresh conflict, and the earnest of blessed victory. The ground is always sure for faith. May the Lord ever furnish us with faith enough for our daily work, conflict, consolation, and establishment!
"I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried." He was up before the sun, and began his pleadings before the dew began to leave the grass. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing speedily. This is the third time that he mentions that he cried. He cried, and cried, and cried again. His supplications had become so frequent, fervent, and intense, that he might hardly be said to be doing anything else from morning to night but crying unto his God. So strong was his desire after salvation that he could not rest in his bed; so eagerly did he seek it that at the first possible moment he was on his knees.
"I hoped in your word." Hope is a very powerful means of strengthening us in prayer. Who would pray if he had no hope that God would hear him? Who would not pray when he has a good hope of a blessed issue to his entreaties? His hope was fixed upon God's word; and this is a sure anchorage, because God is true, and in no case has he ever run back from his promise, or altered the thing that has gone forth from his mouth. He who is diligent in prayer will never be destitute of hope. Observe that as the early bird gets the worm, so the early prayer is soon refreshed with hope.