Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. – Psalm 17:1 (NRSVUE)
Say what you will about David. He was a brave and beautiful giant-killer, a devoted friend, a heroic leader, and a brilliant musician. He was also a treacherous commander, a bad husband, a sexual predator, and a catastrophic parent. He was gifted and talented, impulsive and clever, foolish and flawed. He was a favorite child of God, and a great big mess.
And oh boy! We can find all of that in the words of the psalms known as his. David shows up to pray with “lips free of deceit.” He puts it all out there, both in praise and lament. In this psalm, he claims God will find no wickedness in him, while he confesses his wrongdoing in other psalms. Whatever his situation, he trusts God is there for him.
This might not be the way we were taught to pray. Whether we learned prayers from printed pages or the mouths of parents or faith leaders, they may have imprinted a particular idea about what kinds of prayers God expects. We may feel most comfortable reciting familiar words, or speaking a list of requests for others, or simply sitting quietly and asking God to be with us.
In this psalm, David shows full confidence. “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;” no doubts there. David’s relationship with God has survived both triumph and downfall, and it will again.
What would our prayers look like if we offered them lips free, replacing reverent murmurs with ruthless honesty and strong claims? What would we tell God?
Holy One, may we pray like David, trusting you love us, no matter what. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, from The Pilgrim Press.