Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God! Let Thy good spirit lead me on a level path!Psalm 143: 7, 10
Do you ever feel lost, unsure of what to do next, unsure of what to think, or where to go? Ever feel kicked to the curb, like there will never be a better tomorrow? At any given time, there are lots of people in the world who feel like this, especially at this time in our world. When you feel this way, Psalm 143 is the place to turn.
Psalm 143 acknowledges that sometimes life kicks us to the curb:
“For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” (Psalm 143:3-4)
The “enemy” can be many things—it might be grief over the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, high anxiety due to covid or some other misfortune, loss of self-confidence, doubt, and uncertainty. There are lots of “enemies” we will confront in life. Not all are military enemies.
The Psalmist hides this cry in the midst of a Psalm of hope. Psalm 143 asks God to hear our prayer (v. 1) and to be faithful to us (v.1). It asks God to make haste to answer us (v. 7), to be present (v.7), for us to hear the voice of His love (v. 8), to teach us (v.8), to deliver us from enemies (v.9), to teach us to do His will (v. 10), to lead us on a level path (v.11), to preserve our life (v. 11), to bring us out of trouble (v. 11), and to destroy our enemies (v. 11). (This does not mean for God to destroy people we don’t like but to destroy the circumstances which cause us grief.)
We have a part in reaching out for God’s love and help. Verse 5 reminds us that we must remember God and meditate on Him. Verse 6 reminds us to stretch out our hands to God, and to long for Him, as one longs for water in a parched land. Verse 8 reminds us to trust in God.
When I feel like life is getting complicated, or overwhelming, Psalm 143 is the first place I turn. The simple prayer of “teach me the way I should go” (v. 8) because a verse I pray over and over again. When I don’t know where to go, “I stretch out my hands” (v. 6) to God and put my trust in Him (v. 8). Many times we are afraid to ask God for things, either thinking we are too bold or too unworthy. There can’t be any more of a bold statement, then verse 12: “In Thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries”. However, this bold request is followed by a humble submission, “for I am your servant.” And this is the most courageous line of this Psalm, because it submits to God, that whatever happens, we will still be His servants. Even if the “enemies” win, even if our loved one dies, even if the cancer isn’t cured, even if the job is lost, we will still be God’s servants.
Asking God for His Spirit to lead us on a level path (v. 10) is a statement of faith and trust. Because the path God has us walk may not be the path we’d choose for ourselves. To choose our own path doesn’t require faith. To walk God’s path requires faith. Praying this Psalm asks God for deliverance and guidance, but it also pledges faith and trust.
Psalm 143 is so important that it is read every day at the Orthros service as one of the Six Psalms. It is also read at Paraklesis, the service of supplication to the Virgin Mary. This service, which is offered in times of sorrow and distress, begins with this Psalm of direction, a supplication to God that we are in distress, with a trust in God to lead us on His path.
When you feel down, pray this Psalm, one verse at a time. Focus not on the pain of verses 3-4, but on the request for guidance and the trust and submission one must have to truly be a person of faith.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In Thy faithfulness answer me in Thy righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for no man living is righteous before Thee. For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore, my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that Thou hast done; I muse on what Thy hands have wrought. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul thirsts for Thee like a parched land. Make haste to answer me, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not Thy face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the Pit. Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in Thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to Thee I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies! I have fled to Thee for refuge! Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God! Let Thy good spirit lead me on a level path! For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In Thy righteousness bring me out of trouble! And in Thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am Thy servant. Psalm 143
When in doubt, pray it out. And Psalm 143 is a great place to start!