David spoke and wrote in the Hebrew language, which has twenty-two letters in the alphabet rather than our twenty-six. Psalm 25 finds him in a low moment when he is thinking and praying through the A to Z of his pain. Thus, with only minor omissions, each of the twenty-two verses of Psalm 25 begins with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Most all the woe we experience in life can be summarized in two categories: the harm others have done to us and the harm we have done to ourselves. David’s litany of pain alternates between the two. His exterior problems press hard against him, but on the inside he wrestles with his own sin, guilt, and shame.
How do you cope when your circumstances are difficult and/or you feel you have completely failed the Lord, others, and even yourself? David prays.
The psalm opens with an expression of trust: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (v. 1). You can do many things with the invisible part of your life. Your soul can be cast down (Psalm 42:5), in anguish (Psalm 6:3), poured out (1 Samuel 1:15), or lifted up. In Psalm 25 we employ the latter alternative.
But lifting up my soul in relinquishment and worship is not enough. I must also be instructed: “Show me your ways . . . teach me your paths . . . guide me in your truth” (vv. 4,5).
Will God even think of me today? Will He indeed be my Savior and hope? David banks on the nature of God for the affirmative answer. He remembers His own holy character of mercy and love, and therefore He remembers not the wrong I have done. (See vv. 6,7.)
The Lord instructs sinners and guides the humble. He forgives—not just because I need it—but because He is good and upright. (See vv. 8–11.) David celebrates the Lord who remains faith- ful, loving, and forgiving at all times.
Problems either drive us to the Lord or away from Him. When we come to Him out of brokenness, trusting in His mercy, we become persons who fear the Lord. (See v. 12.) He then promises to instruct us, prosper us, and bring security to our descendants. (See vv. 12–14.)
Prayer brings moments of respite to our spirit. When our eyes are not on the Lord, our solutions prove to be no solutions at all—just pain and hardship. We do not get out of our trap until we focus on Him. (See v. 15.) That’s easier said than done. Sometimes we hurt so badly that the deep pain penetrates even our highest moments of trust in prayer.
Thus, David’s emotions plunge again at the very end of the psalm. His opening words of trust (v. 1) now give way to despair. (See vv. 16–18.) He pitches back and forth between confidence in God and struggles with his own feelings. But after every emotional nosedive, he comes right back with a new expression of trust.
It is God who must guard and rescue. (See v. 20.) There is a difference between the two: to be guarded means security in the midst of danger, to be rescued, to be snatched out of the peril. They are not the same act. If the Lord does not rescue you from a desperate circumstance, you may be sure He is guarding you instead.
The Lord will heal you on the inside even if you are not immediately delivered on the outside. That was the case with David. He had been extremely conscious of his rebellion and great iniquity (vv. 7,11), but through earnest confession the Lord had placed integrity and uprightness into his life. (See v. 21.) You too can have a good heart in the midst of a great hurt.
A genuine relationship with God results in unselfishness. David realizes he is not the only one with sorrow. So he prays, “Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!” (v. 22).
I keep a written list of persons I pray for daily. One part of that list is reserved for persons who have far more pressing needs than my own. Remembering them in prayer helps me to keep perspective and avoid the self-pity of “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
David’s prayer began with focus on his own personal need and ended with concern for God’s people. Our alphabet of prayer is complete when we likewise join in intercession for others.