Psalm 16 Study: Praying My Headaches

I am just getting over a two day headache that is rounding the corner on its third day.


Some of you get headaches all the time, too.  Or your back goes out. Or your stomach gets grouchy.  But we all understand how much something like that affects EVERYTHING.

My husband asked, “what did you do today?”  I pondered.  I don’t know.  I had a headache.  I couldn’t think.  I had to work, but God mercifully shortened my work day.  I tried to nap.  I tried to pray.  But mostly I kept saying the same thing over and over.  “Help me, Father.  Help me.”

When I turned to Psalm 16 this morning, I recognized a similar feeling of weak desperation in David’s opening words.  “Preserve me O God, for I take refuge in you.”  This Psalm has lots of other things to say, too. It goes on to proclaim wonderful things about God and promise wonderful things for us.  It is quoted at least twice in the New Testament, referring to Christ.

But it starts with a one sentence prayer. I can handle that, even with a headache. I can even pray my headache.

I love it when God starts where I am and leads me somewhere else.  Let’s follow this psalm.

This Week’s Questions

This week the questions are a little different. I have given you the same 5 questions three times. once for each of the three readings you will do of the Psalm.  Until now we have been studying the Psalm straight through 3 times, asking all the questions for one reading before moving on to the next.  This time I want to recommend that we take one question per day and study it from David’s perspective, Jesus’s perspective, and our perspective.  Does that make sense?  Question 1 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, etc.

First read to hear David’s voice.

1. “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.”  Read the psalm and write down anything that David might want to be preserved from or take refuge from.  (Some might be stated in the positive.)
2. “I have no good apart from you.” David expresses faith in God alone in the first half of the Psalm, vv. 1-6.  Make a list of each expression of single minded trust.  (compare Psalm 16:2 to Psalm 4:6a to see the contrast of faith and unbelief)
3. How does David relate to believers and unbelievers in verses 3-4? What is he rejecting in v. 4, them or their gods?
4. God’s faithfulness is highlighted in vv. 7-11.  List the specific ways the LORD has been faithful to David.
5. Psalm 16:11 is the culmination of this Psalm, the overflow of David’s faith and the LORD’s faithfulness.  How does each phrase compare to his original prayer in verse 1?

Second read to hear Jesus’ voice.

1. Think through Jesus’s public ministry.  When might he have prayed vv. 1-2, for God to preserve him and be his refuge?  (See 1 Peter 2:24)
2. “I have no good apart from you.” Jesus prayed this psalm.  See Luke 18:18-19 to understand why prayer is an expression of his trust in the Father.
3. How did Jesus relate to believers and unbelievers? See Luke 7:9, Luke 15:2, Luke 19:10.  How is this different from David?  How is it the same?
4. How did Jesus experience the Father’s faithfulness during his earthly life?  Can you think of a parallel to each verse of this Psalm?  (See Acts 2:29-33 and 13:35).
5. Read Psalm 16:11 from Jesus’ earthly perspective.  How do the 3 phrases compare with his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane?  Did God preserve him? What else did he do?

Third read to hear your voice.

1. What do you want God to preserve you from right now in your life?  Call out to God your Creator, who doesn’t just create, but sustains his creation.
2. In which area of your life are you struggling to trust God with your whole heart?  Turn David’s proclamations of faith into prayers for faith.  Rejoice in the perfect faith of your Savior.
3. Think about the believers who are part of your life.  Take time to delight in one of them before the Lord today. Think about the unbelievers you know.  Do their idols tempt you? Take time to pray for one of them, that sorrow and futility will bring them to their senses and they will turn to the Lord.
4. How have you seen God’s faithfulness in your own life?  Take time to write it down and give thanks.
5. Sometimes our prayers for preservation are only answered by death and resurrection.  Read Ephesians 3:20-21 and apply it to your current prayers for deliverance.  Place your hope in the resurrected Savior!

God hears our one sentence prayers–even our one word prayers–when we take refuge in him through Jesus.

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