What should it sound like when we talk to God? Particularly, what should it sound like when we are afraid? How ought we to speak to the Lord of the Universe when things are hard?
A study of the Psalms shows us a pattern in prayer that we would do well to learn.
1 Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
The psalmist opens his cry to the Lord by expressing his desperation. There is no doubt in the way that these words sound that he is in distress. He needs the Lord. He is pleading with God to hear him and answer him. Though there is no complaint in his tone, no accusation of wrongdoing toward God, the psalmist is clear that he needs the help of the Lord, and he feels he needs it right now.
In the next part of the psalm, as in so many, the psalmist will present requests to God. He will describe the situation and ask for mercy. He will have no problem asking God to rescue him, to save him from enemies, and to get rid of those who would hurt him.
And then the psalmist will wrap up with confidence in the Lord and commitment to the worship of God.
8 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.
Even as the psalmist, in a short prayer, asks God for help and protection, he closes with a promise to serve the Lord. He is not at all trying to buy God’s favor with obedience—that would simply not work. But the psalmist is expressing confidence. He knows, at the end of the day, the Lord will keep his promises. At the end of the day, the Lord will do what is right. At the end of the day, the psalmist will keep his promises of worship and obedience. At the end of the day, God will do that which brings the Lord glory and the psalmist will find joy as he glorifies the Lord.