Psalm 63 – A Prayer of Longing for God

This morning I want to share a story with you…

OWL BABIES by Martin Waddell

Well….why did I share that story with you?

Well I guess it’s because I just love Bill, the youngest owl.

You see Bill is desperate to be with his mum – he loves her very much, he longs for her, he just wants her to be near – to experience her presence close by. 

Bill wants his mum close, then he will be safe and secure.

Our Psalm today is Psalm 63, which in our Bibles is entitled

‘comfort and assurance in God’s presence’   

Or perhaps another way of seeing this psalm is as ‘A prayer of longing for God’. 

Old Testament Reading – Psalm 63

Psalm 63 was almost certainly written by David at a time when he was in the wilderness in Judah, having left the safety, security and familiarity of Jerusalem….

At this point David felt lost, alone and uncertain – In the same way that Bill is separated from his mum, at times we can also feel separated from God. 

During these times, we may feel much like small children feel when they are separated from their parents – frightened, lonely, unsure, angry, and upset.

And we may experience an intense longing for our parent to return. All sorts of things can create this sense of separation from God.  

  • It might come as a result of a loss, or a death of a loved one. 
  • It might be a crisis in our lives, something which leaves us feeling forgotten or uncared for by God.
  • It might come during a time of personal sin or failure…when we struggle with fear and doubt that God will really love us.
  • Maybe a sense of separation comes because we have wandered and done our own thing.
  • Or maybe, it might come, as it did for this Psalmist, as a result of being removed from a place of safety and security, and his community of faith. 

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Whatever the reason, a sense of separation from God can generate life’s deepest pain, that of a desire for something more, an intense longing for God. 

And this is what we see right at the start of the Psalm – David cries out to God with a strong physical metaphor – my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you; in a dry and weary land where there is no water.   

I wonder what language we would use to describe such an intense longing…. what might we say?

The message version of the Bible, a translation which seeks to use modern language puts it this way… God, I just can’t get enough of you!

David is desperate….he is longing for more…. David cries out a heartfelt prayer to God; a prayer that asks God to come close. 

And in doing so there are three things which I notice, three actions that David takes which direct and give focus to his prayer of longing for God…  

The first thing David does is he decides to seek after God….

He affirms again his desire to bless the Lord, to lift his hands in worship to God and to call on God’s name…. David says that even through the watches of the night….perhaps when he is awake with fear and anxiety, even then he will meditate on God, think about all that God has done. 

I wonder what does it look like for us to seek after God?   I guess for each of us it looks different, but it’s worth thinking about:

  • How often do we devote time to reading and studying our bibles as a way of learning and deepening our relationship with God? 
  • How good are we at coming to God in prayer, in being honest and vulnerable and real and allowing God to move in us? 
  • How good are we at going for walk, singing, worshipping, spending time with God?   

If we want to know God better, if we want to know his presence with us, we need to actually seek after him.

Secondly David remembers a time when life was different

a time when he felt God close by, a time when he clearly saw God at work. David remembers the experience he had back in Jerusalem, in the sanctuary. A time when he was gathered in a faith community and saw God’s great power and glory. 

David remembers a time when his soul was satisfied. He reminds himself that all his life God has been his help and kept him safe in the shadow of his wing.   

And this got me thinking, I wonder whether we should spend more time counting our blessings, as it were. Remembering and thanking God for all that he has done for us.   And as those who live after Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, being grateful for the promise of eternal life.   

Finally, this knowledge, that God is a good God, who steadfast love endures, inspires David to promise that he will cling on to God, and allow God to uphold him. 

This idea of clinging on to God is interesting; at times in life I think clinging on to God, how tentatively is all that we can do. 

There have been many times in my life, when I’ve had no idea why something has happened, why I miscarried babies we’d so longed for, why my best friend died of Acute Leukaemia at the end of April, aged just 40, leaving behind a husband and young children, why I struggle with sin, why twenty years ago I experienced depression and felt so low…

At times like this it was all I could do to cling to God in desperation. And of course when times are hard, it is then that God holds us…..

It reminds me of the “footsteps” poem…….

when life is hardest, when we feel separated from God,  it is then that actually God stoops down, lifts us up and carries us…..

This psalm shows us that David longs to know more of God in his life.  David thirsts, he strives, and he desires to experience God in a deeper way.   

And so David commits to seek God, he remembers God, and he promises to cling onto God.

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And I want to suggest this morning, that these three actions of seeking, remembering and clinging on to God will help us when we feel lonely, when we feel separated from God, when we feel lost and have lost our way.   

That these three actions will allow us to develop and kindle a greater sense of longing for God and may actually be the means by which God changes our longings into a fresh, new lived experience of God in our hearts and souls and lives. 

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