Read: Psalm 141; 1 Samuel 24:3 – 8; Jonah 2:1 – 2
Most commentators place the origins of Psalm 141 to the days when Saul pursued David, and David had the opportunity to kill Saul in the cave of Engedi, but would not lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:3 – 8). This prayer is a paradigm for how to respond when we find ourselves in great distress.
Think About It: What quality of prayer is exemplified in Psalm 141:1? How does Jonah 2:1 – 2 shed light on this quality? Does prayer require any special place, or time, or circumstance?
Prayer: Thank God that the way is always open to the throne of grace.
Read: Psalm 141:2; Exodus 30:34 – 35; Hebrews 7:25, 9:24; 1 John 2:1
David likened his prayer to the incense offering (Psalm 141:2). The incense offering was not made for any particular sin, it was offered purely to bring joy to God. The incense offering was the most intimate and personal of offerings. All other sacrifices were made on the altar outside of the tent; the incense offering was made on a golden altar near the Holy of Holies. Incense was an offering of an odor, necessarily involving the sense of smell, which was considered by the Hebrews to be the only sense not involved in the original sin. Adam heard God’s command and broke it; he saw the fruit, and desired it; he took the fruit in his hands and handled it; he tasted the fruit, and savored it. God breathed the breath of life into Adam through his nostrils; therefore it was believed the sense of smell was the most unsullied of man’s senses; the smelling of the fragrant odor of incense was believed to nourish the soul as the taste of food nourished the belly. Incense was made according to a formula (Exodus 30:34 – 35) to be used for no other purpose than for worship. The Jewish tradition says eleven spices were crushed in the making of incense; one of those was noxious.
Think About It: The Jewish interpretation of the noxious incense ingredient was that the righteous must be willing to pray together with the unrighteous. In light of Romans 3:23, why can this interpretation not be quite correct? Who is the Righteous One who intercedes for me? Are there any particular odors that I associate with worship, or with feeling closer to God?
Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for Your faithful intercession on my behalf.
Read: Psalm 141:2; Genesis 24:63; Daniel 9:21
David likened his prayer to the evening sacrifice, in Hebrew, the minchah, which was actually offered in the afternoon. Because this sacrifice and prayer time required the interruption of one’s work in order to worship, the Jews believed that God considered it to be very precious. Placing this in the context of the incident at Engedi, this is the gist of v. 2: “When I hold back my hands from harming Saul, it is as the minchah, when I lay aside my work to lift up my hands in prayer to the Lord.”
Think About It: Do I make it a practice to lay aside my work from time to time, and to turn my thoughts to God in prayer?
Prayer: Lord, help me turn my thoughts to you in the middle of my busy day.
Read: Psalm 141:3; Psalm 34:13; Psalm 39:1; Proverbs 13:3, 21:23; Micah 7:5
In Psalm 141:3 David prayed for God to guard his speech. David had been deeply hurt by slander and false accusations and prayed not to hurt others as he had been hurt.
Think About It: Have I ever been slandered? What is the temptation that comes when responding to slander? How should I respond to slander?
Prayer: Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.
Read: Psalm 141:4; Mark 7:21; 2 Corinthians 10:5
In Psalm 141:4 David prayed for God to guard his thoughts and intentions and to keep him from wicked deeds. David was especially tempted to wicked actions by the influence of two groups of evil men: first, by Saul and his allies, who might well have driven David to return evil for evil; second, by the Philistines among whom he settled, because their wicked deeds were crowned with worldly success.
Think About It: What practical advice regarding my thoughts is given in
2 Corinthians 10:5? How does one go about following this advice? What temptations am I facing from evil influences? How am I responding to those influences?
Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my thoughts.
Read: Psalm 141:5
David’s request in Psalm 141:5 was for correction and discipline from the righteous. The Hebrew word for “strike” refers to a heavy blow, like a hammer striking an anvil; yet David found that blow like healing anointing.
Think About It: David walked what he talked, as illustrated in the following examples: Nathan, 2 Samuel 12:1 – 13; Joab, 2 Samuel 14: 1 – 12; Gad, 2 Samuel 24:11 – 14. Contrast David’s response to that of Ahab vs. Micaiah (1 Kings 22:26 – 28); Herod vs. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3); Felix vs. Paul (Acts 24:25). Am I open to the rebuke of the righteous?
Prayer: Lord, help me to be open and accountable and ready to repent.
Read: Psalm 141:6 – 10; 2 Chronicles 20:12; Psalm 68:20; Ephesians 6:12
David closed his urgent prayer with an observation regarding his enemies, a vivid picture of his desperate straits, an affirmation of his faith in God, and a noble request regarding his enemies; not that they be destroyed, but that they be detained by their own trap long enough for him to escape.
Think About It: When I find myself in dire straits, do I face reality, or retreat in denial? When I’m trouble, are my eyes on God? When there is conflict, do I see the spiritual nature of the struggle, or do I fight the human instruments of the real foe?
Prayer: Lord, help me to see the truth of my situation, and to keep my eyes on You.