Ps 3:3 “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”
Are you hanging your head in discouragement, regret, or fear today? Are you struggling to figure out how to process that soul-level slippage? David, the author of this Psalm, is running for his life. His son Absalom has overthrown him and his prospects look dismal at best. Out of this dim moment comes the first prayer in the book of Psalms; it is the anguished cry for help of a man fighting to “keep his head up.” A feat that is impossible, during the tougher moments of life, without prayer.
Prayer provides an elevating means to processing our human resistance. (1-2)
The key word is verses 1-2 is the repeated word “many.” These “increased troublers” are overwhelming to David in this jarring setback. In fact, forces of the opposition had driven him from the palace and were then surrounding him. Their taunt was that he had no hope of being delivered by God. This arrogant remark was designed to say that God had abandoned David. Notice that David begins this complaint with the direct address, “Lord.” We can learn from David’s example to not attempt diplomacy with Absalom or debate with the insurrectionists around Him who like long to TAKE OFF HIS HEAD. He simply prayed!
Recently Kurt Skelly tweeted, “Ministry longevity is impossible without an ability to biblically process criticism.” That’s tough to do. Like David, when we are under stress, it tends to feel like everybody is against us. To properly process those who resist us requires a choice to focus more upon what we say to God than what others say about our God. If it hard to hear with our ears when our own mouth is speaking, then let us allow much prayer to drown out the insolent clamoring of our haters. In crisis, the human instinct is to verbalize how we feel. May we do so in the only sanctified outlet available-prayer.
Prayer gives us an elevating means to rest in God’s sustenance. (3-6)
In the face of such antagonism, David found comfort in God’s character. Using the metaphor of a shield, he said that God was the true Source of his protection (in spite of their taunts). David was confident that God would restore him to his throne. The words “lifts up my head” express restoration to dignity and position. The reason for David’s burst of confidence in verse 3 is expressed in verses 4–5. God had sustained him through the night in the midst of his enemies, and that protection was a token of the complete deliverance he expected. On the basis of this deliverance, the psalmist expressed his absence of fear over the thousands who took their stand against him on every side.
When times get tough, it can be extremely tempting to disrespect the Lord as a far away, uncaring deity. As one author put it, “practical atheism pulls hard on troubled souls.” The only way to fight this tendency is all of us is through supplication to the God who promises to be near to us. Like David we need to remember answered prayer from the God who “hears out of His holy hill.” We didn’t survive until today on our own but through God’s intimate and sustaining power activated in our lives. Allow prayer, in the midst of present and future unknowns, to remind you of how much you need God and how faithful He has always proven to be. While we believe God for what He has promised, we are to be constantly assured by what He actually does.
Prayer gives us an elevating means to assimilating God’s salvation. (7-8)
These verses record David’s confident petition for complete deliverance from his enemies. Perhaps David was saying in verse 7 that God had always destroyed his enemies and therefore he prayed that God would do it again. However, it may be better to understand the verbs as expressions of his confidence—he was so sure that God would destroy them that he wrote as if it had already happened. The imagery of the destruction is bold. David used terms referring to crushing blows to state that God would utterly destroy his enemies. His conclusion is didactic. Deliverance comes from the Lord. God’s people should pray to Him under similar circumstances, so that they may share this blessing.
While biblical prayer is not intended to be a manipulative “name it and claim it” endeavor, it does provide confidence in a sovereign God who delights in saving His people. This understanding, refined in the prayer closet, infuses us with a concrete expectancy. In Psalm 121:1, this sentiment is captured, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” The question is what do you spend more time talking about-the problems you see that are many or the solution, which is the one, true God? It appears that David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is also anticipating the triumph that God will bring from his loins in the person of Jesus Christ our “Lord” and in whose name we pray. Our head can be up when others, in the same circumstances, are down because our Lord is high and lifted up!
Could what you are experiencing right now that causes your head to droop is one of God’s greatest gifts? Choose to see the challenging circumstances as an opportunity not to hang your head in reactionary fear and shame but to bow your head in prayerful submission and confidence.