If we are not careful in our Bible reading, we will miss little grammatical things that have big lessons for us. One such lesson is the use of cause words like “because,” ““for,” or “therefore.” These words remind us that what we are reading is the reason for something in the mind of the inspired author. And such things teach us how to live and how to pray.
Notice the simple cause word in this verse:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
The psalm opens with a cry, “Be merciful to me.” The writer is pleading with God to help him. Later in the psalm, we will see that he is facing the attacks of opponents who would destroy him. And so he is asking for help, for protection.
In the second line of the verse, we see the word “for.” That is a cause word. What our minds need to do is recognize that the line to follow will be the psalmist giving God a reason why he should help. Why would God want to have mercy on the psalmist? Why would God protect him from harm?
The psalmist says that he is asking God to help for this reason: “in you my soul takes refuge.” The reason that the psalmist gives that God ought to help is that the psalmist has taken refuge in God. The writer has already run to God in relationship. He has hidden in God, sheltering in the Almighty. He is not asking for help because he deserves it or because he is better than his attackers. No, the psalmist makes the basis of his request that he has a relationship with God.
Do not miss the “for.” In that, we learn something of how to pray for ourselves too. We need God to help us. We are in pain or trouble. We cry to him for mercy. But why ought he to help us? Our answer should be quick. We ask God to help, not because we deserve it, not because we are good, not because they are bad, but simply because we have come to Jesus for mercy and found our refuge in the Lord. This is a wise way to pray, making our request not be about our goodness, but about the faithfulness of God to shelter his own.