Ps 5:3 “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
What is the first thing you do when you wake up? What is the first thing you should do when you start your day? Too often our “morning breath” is squandered upon temporal pursuits instead of being sanctified through the tried and true discipline of the bed-to-knees supplication in the starting blocks of every day.
Three reasons to do nothing else in a day before praying:
Morning prayer directs your thoughts toward the Lord. (1-3)
There is in this psalm a vibe of uneasy tension between the righteous and the wicked, such as is frequently found in the Psalter. The situation is similar to that of Psalms 3 and 4 in that in both there are dangerous foes surrounding the Psalmist. The psalm may have been used by the priests in their preparation for morning sacrifice or by the individual as he focused and prepared for worship.
Clear thinking for the pilgrim believer, living in hostile, distracting world, in only possible when each day begins with prayer. Notice that not only his words but his meditation (lit., whispering) is a part of this invocation. We must begin the day with prayerful musings upon the Lord. When God hears your voice in the morning (3a), now He has your intentional attention and uplifted focus (3b). Don’t pray when it arbitrarily comes to mind. Instead choose to set your mind upon the Lord by a daily commitment to prayer at dawn. This liberates you from the “tyranny of the urgent” to live each daily cycle to its fullest under the sovereign guidance and empowerment of the Lord.
As Dawson Trotman asserts, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and fingertips.” Sanctify your thoughts through verbal prayers. Sanctify them through written prayers.
Morning prayer instills in your heart confidence in the Lord. (4-7)
Not only do we desperately need to preempt our day with pray for the sake of our minds but also for our hearts that are so prone to wander and worry. The psalmist expresses his confidence in approaching a God who hates iniquity. An evil person cannot dwell with such a God. People who are presumptuous and boastful, who do not shrink from murder or deceit, God hates and will destroy. They are totally detestable to Him. In contrast with such wickedness David, in verse 7, does not boast about his own virtues. Rather he stresses God’s mercy (ḥeseḏ, “loyal love”) toward him. By this he could approach the tabernacle to worship the Lord in reverence. The wicked are arrogant; a worshiper is humble before God. Prayer “multiplies” (v. 7) our appreciation for God’s mercies that “are new every morning” (La. 3:23).
Only through prayer can we begin a new day with honesty about our shortcomings and yet confidence in the unquestionably loyal mercy and grace of our God. This renewal of emotionally absorbing and savoring divinely-imparted righteousness gives us a “bold as a lion” (Pr. 28:1) disposition no matter how many times we failed yesterday or will fail today. The negative or timid soul, no matter the extremes of a given day, is always a prayerless soul. The prayer-filled opposite is equally true-a day begun with prayer saturates the heart with unflappable positivity in the Lord.
Morning prayer seeks divine guidance before making a move. (8)
Once our thoughts and emotions are aligned with a holy, unchanging God, now we can properly follow His leading through the unique twists and turns of every new day hand-made by the Lord. David’s prayer for guidance is the central idea of verses 8–12. This prayer is for guidance in right living, a commitment that practically happens one day at a time. Because God is righteous, and because the enemies are wicked (vv. 4–6), David’s desire was to follow the path of right conduct and not be numbered among those whom God hates.
One of the greatest challenges of our daily walk are the variables that are always changing and enemies that are always adapting. The word for enemies comes from the verb “to lie in wait,” a presence in our day that only prayer enables us to safely navigate. Without prayer, even the well-intentioned believer can find themselves fighting against God instead of fighting for what He values and blesses. To begin your day with prayer realigns your loyalties and beseeches the King of Kings to move the precious pawn that you are into a strategic position of ultimate victory that is made of up daily battles too significant to lose through prayerlessness.
As one writer put it, “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock in the evening.” Lest you think this is just a man-made tradition warmed up from the Old Testament, I remind you of the New Testament example of our Lord and Savior: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mk. 1:35).