“Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
So then, where do we turn when we lie down to sleep with a heart that is full of turmoil? Over the course of the eight verses of this Psalm, David turns three places: Up, out, and in. The out and the in are important because, 1. we need to speak (at least metaphorically) to our sources of anxiety from a place of righteousness; and 2. our self-talk in times of emotional distress is really important. But, he begins and ends with up, because with God is where we will ultimately find the resources we need to resolve our tension and when He has provided them we do need to express our gratitude for it.
So again, David starts with God. Do you remember that time you tried to hit the sack, but your heart was just too torn up over some offense you’d been dealt that day? What was your gut-level prayer then? “God, where are you?” “God, this isn’t fair!” “Do you even hear me when I pray, God?”
Did you feel a little twinge a guilt over crying out so emotionally to God about something you later realized was a lot smaller of a deal than it felt like then? Don’t sweat it next time. That cry is exactly where David starts.
Now, most major translations word this like the ESV: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” But, I really like what both The Message in its way, and the CSB here do with it. I think they more truly capture the emotion in David’s voice—and what is often in ours when we are in a similar place. This isn’t some kind of a calm, religiously acceptable prayer. There’s an anger and even a bit of sarcasm here. “You’re supposed to be the God who vindicates me. So, where are you now? You’ve helped me in the past, so are you going to listen to me this time?”
Have you ever been that emotionally honest with God in your praying before? As I said before, David does it fairly frequently. And, while we can’t ever forget who God is—something David, in spite of the emotion, doesn’t do here—if we’ve got strong emotions in our heart because of something hard that’s happened to us, there’s no use trying to hold them back in order to pray a prayer that we deem religiously acceptable. God knows they’re there, we might as well humbly, but sincerely let them out.
So, the next time you’re lying in bed with so much anger or frustration or turmoil in your heart that you can’t sleep, start by letting it out. Make this first verse of Psalm 4 part of the beginning of your prayer: God, where are you? Do you hear me? You’ve helped me before; I need you to listen to me now. When we start with where we are with God, He can take us to where we need to be.