Three-year-old Gabby Gingras suffers from a nerve disorder called hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy Type 5. It’s so rare that only about 25 people in the entire United States are thought to have it. In this disorder, pain sensations are blocked from reaching the brain. Gabby might break a tooth or skin a knee, but she would feel nothing. As a result, she doesn’t know when she’s injured herself, and her parents must keep a watchful eye on her at all times. The pain that would warn another child doesn’t exist for her.
Gabby’s condition shows us that pain has a purpose in the natural world. The same is true in the spiritual world—God can use difficulties to teach and transform us. But it’s still not easy or pleasant, and so we cry out for comfort as David did: “Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer” (v. 1). When we pray, there’s no need to tiptoe around our real thoughts and feelings—we can urgently and directly call on God. Such boldness is a sign of faith. It shows we believe He’s the kind of God who wants and is able to respond to our prayers, just as David believed God was righteous and merciful and would come to his aid. “Give me relief” literally means “make a spacious place for me,” a picture of freedom and security.
Whatever the exact situation was that prompted David to write Psalm 4, the crisis clearly had a public dimension. Some people had turned to false idols and other delusions, which for their king meant his God-given glory was turned to shame (v. 2). They had made a huge mistake, though, for God keeps the promises He’s made to the people He’s chosen; therefore, He will surely answer the prayers of the godly. Godly people are ready to search their hearts and repent (v. 4), trust steadfastly, and worship rightly.
This prayer proclaims that God can be trusted despite painful and uncertain circumstances. Even beyond that affirmation, it confidently describes the answer to prayer, including a sense of God’s presence, His joy, and His peace (vv. 6–8; cf. Isa. 26:3).
As we continue reading different psalms, you’ll notice that the psalmist’s body language is an important part of his prayer life. We might be used to kneeling or folding our hands. Such body language is meant to indicate humility, submission, and worship, though it sometimes becomes merely an unthinking habit.
Why not try to incorporate new body language into your prayer time today? What’s one posture David used that you’ve never done in prayer? Make sure you understand what it means, then give it a try!