But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. – Psalm 69:13 ESV
The primary purpose of prayer is not to get something from God. But for many of us, that is what we have made it. That is how we understand it and approach it. We pray primarily to receive something we need or want. And while we are encouraged to ask from and offer petitions to God, there is far more to the act of prayer than simply receiving our requests. Prayer is an act of humble submission to a holy, all-powerful God. It conveys our dependence upon Him and acknowledges our understanding that He is the giver of all good things. Jesus said of the Father, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV). The psalmist reminds us that “the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 ESV). God loves to give to His children. But there is more to prayer than getting from God. It is an experience in getting to know God. Through prayer we discover the will of God. We experience the nature of God. We begin to understand the attributes of God. We learn the valuable lesson of trusting God. And over time, as we wait for His answer, we grow in our willingness to wait on God.
In this psalm, David makes it clear that his prayer was to God. He wasn’t going to turn to anyone or anything else. His request was going to be made to the only one who could do anything to help him. David was up to his neck in trouble, and he had been for some time. His prayers had been constant and urgent. “ I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3 ESV). David longed to see God intervene and deliver him from all his difficulties. He wanted to be a living example of God’s saving power. He cried out, “Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies,and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me” (Psalm 69:13-14 ESV).
But David was willing to wait. His prayer was based on his understanding of God’s love and faithfulness. While he would have loved an immediate answer to his prayer and a quick deliverance from his trials, he was willing to wait on God, because he trusted God. He knew that God was there and that He cared. His petition was based on what he knew about God. “Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me” (Psalm 69:16 ESV). We sometimes pray and our focus is more on what we want than on the one to whom we are praying. We can become obsessed with our request and fail to give much thought to God and His love, mercy, grace and power. David went to God because he loved God. David made his request to God because he trusted God. David prayed to God because he was completely dependent upon God. And he knew that God would answer him “at an acceptable time.” The Hebrew literally means, “in a time of favor.” David was willing to wait on God to answer his request when He deemed the timing was right – based on His unfailing love, faithfulness, and mercy.
We are welcome and encouraged to make our requests known to God. Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7 ESV). Notice that Paul says the result of our petition will be peace – the peace of God. In other words, the peace we will receive will be a God-based peace, not an answer-based peace. We will not experience peace because we got what we wanted, but because our God has heard our request and loves us deeply and cares about us greatly. The peace will be founded on the character of God. He is sovereign. He hears. He loves us. He is faithful. He is all-powerful. He will always do the right thing. And He will provide His answer at an acceptable time and in the appropriate manner.
Paul said, “The Lord is at hand.” He is near. He is not distant or disengaged from our experiences. He is as near as our next prayer. But rather than simply pray to get from Him, we should pray to get to know Him, to discover His character, to become more convinced of His love and faithfulness. David was so confident of God’s deliverance that he was able to say, “I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30 ESV). He knew His God. He trusted Him. He was willing to wait on Him. Because He knew His answer would come at just the right time and in just the right way.