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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-478165856A wise person said, “The greatest battles you will ever fight happen in bed alone in the dark.” King David (the boy who killed Goliath and the warrior who took down tens of thousands of Israel’s enemies) composed Psalm 4 in the throes of just such a battle—alone in the dark at night. 

A glance at the final stanza reveals who is ultimately the Victor: “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.” But how does David go from crying out in the middle of the night, like so many of us, to resting in God? What can you and I learn from Psalm 4 as we wrestle with anxieties and temptations through this fast?

 1. David cries out to God

When I call out, answer me,
O God who vindicates me!
Though I am hemmed in, you will lead me into a wide, open place.
Have mercy on me and respond to my prayer! 
Do you ever feel trapped, misunderstood, accused? The first strategy: call upon the God who knows your needs even before you ask. Hope in His promises, invite His response, and ask for His mercy. 

2. David names the enemy: 

You men, how long will you try to turn my honor into shame?
How long will you love what is worthless and search for what is deceptive?

We live in a world where people hurt and shame us. Often we may be blameless in a given situation. More often, however, we fail to realize how much we resemble our enemies. One need only think of Bathsheba and Uriah to recall how much David’s heart fits the description of his assailants. Who doesn’t cherish what is worthless? Who doesn’t craft lies for selfish gain? Too often, I fail to name the real the enemy—sin. And when I do, I forget that God’s honor is what’s at stake in the battle I’m fighting. The battle belongs to the Lord. 

And that’s where the good news comes in. 

3. David exchanges his sin for the armor of God: 

Realize that the Lord shows his faithful follower special favor;
The Lord responds when I cry out to him.
Tremble with fear and do not sin!
Do some soul-searching as you lie in bed,
And repent of your ways!

Who is the faithful follower in this Psalm? It’s the very One to whom God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It’s the One who cried out to His Father from the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” so that we would never have to. 

When you are unfaithful, He remains faithful, even unto death. He is the Word of truth fastened around your waist. He is your breastplate of righteousness, your defense. He shields you with the faith to extinguish lies. He is your helmet of salvation. His Spirit and His Word compose the double edges of your sword. He is yours. And you are His. 

4. David trusts and obeys. 

Offer the prescribed sacrifices and trust in the Lord!
Many say, “Who can show us anything good?”
Smile upon us, Lord!
You make me happier than those who have abundant grain and wine.
I will lie down and sleep peacefully,
For you, Lord, make me safe and secure. 

Into your emptiness and hunger, Christ pours His Spirit. Into your darkness, He shines His face. Have you surrendered the territory of your heart to its rightful King, or are you still fighting a battle won 2,000 years ago on the cross? Are you looking for happiness outside of Jesus? Trust and obey; there really isn’t another way. 

And when you do, He will show you His goodness. In His light you are never in darkness. In His presence you are never alone. Let Him disarm His enemies before your very eyes. Rest from battle, and follow David’s lead by singing a lullaby: 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. 

Anna Shea
Ministry Fellow at Cornell