A problem which is not worth praying about is not worth discussing with others. This is at the heart of David’s counsel to Jeduthun in Psalm 39 as he tackles the question of “How do you handle yourself with wisdom when your heart burns with sorrow, pain, and hurt?”
When faced with such a circumstance, David’s immediate course of action was to resist the urge to talk to others about those things which burdened his burning heart. This was a matter that had to be addressed first in his trysting place with God. Therefore, “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle while the wicked are before me.’ I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good, and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned.” (vv. 1-3).
Once David has an audience of one—the great I AM—David pours out his heart in a most unusual way.
First, he seeks God’s help in clearly understanding his transient nature (and thus the transient nature of all his affliction). “Then I spoke with my tongue: ‘Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (vv. 4-5).
Next, he beseeches God’s assistance in remembering the certain folly of vain living (v. 6) and then he expresses his desire to avoid such a path for his life (vv. 7-11). “Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches and does not know who will gather them. And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; do not make me the reproach of the foolish. I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it. Remove Your plague from me; I am consumed by the blow of Your hand. When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; surely every man is vapor.”
Finally, David petitions Jehovah for attendance to his prayer so that he can continue their sojourn through life and can depart this world in fellowship with God. “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were. Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength before I go away and am no more” (vv. 12-13).
David’s counsel to Jeduthun is that Jehovah never intended for prayer to be a perfunctory formality; its purpose is to be the precious lifeblood that nourishes one’s heart, soul, and faith, especially in difficult times.