The sixth Psalm might look at bit depressing at first. It starts out with God's rebuke, anger and displeasure. But in that, it's true to life. For "all the world" is "guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19); "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). And so we were all "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). Psalm 6:1 isn't just how David felt in that moment. It isn't something we can't relate to. Rather, Psalm 6:1 is an acknowledgment we all must come to when we repent of our sins and turn to God the Saviour.
And that acknowledgement leads into the most honest of prayers in Psalm 6:2: "Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak."
This is the true prayer of a Christian. For Christians are those who look only to the Lord for mercy. We see the reality of our own weakness — our own inability to sort ourselves out. We know that we cannot save ourselves. And so we know that what we need, always and above all, is God's mercy. When you don't know how to pray, you can always pray Psalm 6:2, for in every situation it is good to pray "Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak." (By the way, on a similar note about prayer, you might like to read about the Jesus Prayer.)
David cries out to the Lord with the most honest of prayers. And we should cry out to the Lord with such honest prayer too. We don't impress the Lord when we try to look strong. Instead, it is a good thing to acknowledge our weakness, for only then will we welcome His mercy.
But what reason does the Lord have to answer our cry for help? Why should the Lord save? David knows the answer. It's only "for Your mercies' sake" (Psalm 6:4).
The Lord does not save begrudgingly. He isn't forced into answering our prayers for help against His will. He saves and intervenes on our behalf for His mercies' sake. This mercy isn't something arbitrary or temporary. It's not a whim. The mercies of the Lord are eternal. He is the God who is always abounding in mercy.
In Isaiah, this great mercy is linked to God's name as the Redeemer (Isaiah 54:8) and with God's covenant with His people (Isaiah 54:10; 55:3). So God's mercy isn't a feeling. God's mercy is expressed in His actions to redeem His people and establish His convenant with them. And that means that ultimately, God's mercy is seen in the Cross of Christ. To pray for God to save for His mercies sake, is the same as to pray for God to save for the sake of the blood of Christ. This is God's mercy to us, for He didn't give us what we deserved. His wrath was not poured out on us. But rather, God Himself bore His own wrath in our place when God the Son was crucified for us upon the cross of Calvary.
And this reality of what Jesus has done for us on the cross should fill us with confidence as we cry out to the Lord in our distresses. At times we may wonder "how long?" (Psalm 6:3), we might "weary with ... groaning" and drench our beds "with tears" (Psalm 6:6), yet even in the midst of our waiting we can, like David, have confidence that "the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer" (Psalm 6:8-9). Why? Because our confidence isn't based on the circumstances around us, nor is it based on how much we've been praying, but it's based on God's mercies to us in Christ Jesus, who died and rose again for us and for our salvation.
So, the most honest of prayers may be "Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak." But it is a prayer that is always prayed in confidence, for the mercy of God is found when the face of God shines upon His servant (Ps 31:16), and that is always "in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6), in whom all mercies are found.
P.S. There's a line of this Psalm that might seem really strange. Verse 5 says "For in death there is no remembrance of You." But don't be tempted to think that means people don't remember things after death (as we can see quite clearly elsewhere in the Bible). The parallel here is between "remembrance" in this line and "praise" in the next line, which should give us a clue. Remembrance in the Bible isn't simply an intellectual thing — remembering a fact. Just like the Lord's Supper as a "remembrance" of Christ isn't merely an object lesson to jog our memories. Remembrance here is about worshipping God by making a memorial of His great salvation.
P.P.S. I did say at the start of this series that I'd be working *slowly* through the Psalms. So the length of time between this post and the last one is me keeping my promise ;)
I'll try not to leave the next one until my next holiday!