Psalm 139: Praying our Hearts


If you Google the words “omniscience,” “omnipresence,” or “omnipotence," there’s a good chance that you’ll find a link that references Psalm 139. This Psalm is packed with some of the most lofty theology articulated in the Old Testament. The Psalm reflects on what theologians call the “incommunicable” attributes of God, those aspects of God’s life and character that are not transferable to us humans (unlike God's “communicable” attributes, things like holiness, wisdom, love, etc.). In verses 1-6, David reflects on the omniscience of God (He is all-knowing), in verses 7-12 David reflects on the omnipresence of God (He is present in every part of the universe), and in verses 13-18 David reflects on the omnipotence of God (He is all-powerful). When you really begin to meditate deeply on David’s descriptions of God, your imagination starts to stretch beyond its limits.

And yet, I think what is most striking about this Psalm is that these lofty theological reflections are not carried out in a theology class but in the raw realities of life. From verses 19-24, we can see that David found himself in some kind of tough situation, enemies bearing down and his own heart fragile and anxious. As in many of the Psalms, this one was birthed in trouble. In fact, many commentators categorize this Psalm as a lament. David is reflecting deeply on the nature of God not because he likes theology, but because he needs help. He knows that the ultimate way forward is not trying harder, but believing and living more deeply the beautiful realities of who God is. The more he believes that God knows him, that God is with him, and that God is powerful to act for him, the more confident and assured he will be to face the trials of life.

As you prepare for worship this week, I invite you to pray through Psalm 139 and ask the Spirit to give you a verse or two that speaks to a situation you find yourself in. What would be different about your life if you really believed this truth? How would you approach life differently if you deeply believed this about God from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes? That’s what prayer can do for us: work the truths of God in our head deep down into our hearts.

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You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.