A Calvin Theological Seminary Publication by Students & Alumni
Pray It All Out!

Pray It All Out!

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”

Let the light of your face shine on us.

Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

(Psalm 4)

Have you ever dumped out an entire laundry list of emotions and feelings before the Lord?

I remember growing up in church and being taught certain procedures for prayer. Most of the teaching and examples would (I think unintentionally) point to the perfect way to pray a prayer that God would deem acceptable.

Therefore, my prayer life would suffer with God. I have found that my prayer life has been one of the least frequented of spiritual disciplines. I often avoid praying because I know that I’ll get distracted and daydream, much like I did writing this blog post. I would avoid prayer because I never had something organized to say.

Yet, when I read David in this Psalm, I see such a wide variety of things he prays for. There are several thoughts and themes with different aspects of prayer (which are all needed), yet you could look at this Psalm and think, “Did David have one specific thought in mind? Or did he just let ‘er rip?”

Through this entire Psalm, David’s mind is all over the place. He starts out aggressively contending with God, crying out for the Lord to hear his prayer. He then shouts, “I know he hears me!” even though moments earlier his cry sounded as if God didn’t hear the prayer of His people. 

I think we can learn a practical lesson on prayer from Psalm 4: You don’t need to, He bids us come to Him in prayer no matter your head-space. There is no greater delight from the Father than His children seeking His face and leaning on Him with every supplication on their heart. It’s submission to the truth that we really are not our own.

The richness of Heidelberg Q&A plots this out at great length!

Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him. (Heidelberg Catechism, Heidelberg Catechism, Revised Edition. (Cleveland, OH: Central Publishing House, 1907), 19.)

What the catechism does by including the detail as fine as “a hair” falling off of our head envisions that every single detail is under the supervision of the sovereign Lord. And with that, our prayers can include the things that many of us conclude as “not important.” How could we make such a claim who concerns Himself with “working all things for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). 

Since there is no detail too small for the Lord to be concerned with, Psalm 4 compels that we pray it all out!

~Gavin Schaefer


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