We know desperate. (Or at least I do.)

Desperate was the middle of the night tears as I walked my oldest up and down the hallway of our first family home, pleading for him to sleep and for God to help turn my request into reality. 

Desperate was the prayer I spoke when the ultrasound tech found an intermittent heartbeat. One miscarriage nearly derailed me. I begged God to spare me another. 

Desperate was how I felt after reapplying for my job the third time. Desperate was my heart when my child told me of a bullying situation. Desperate were the screams when I rushed my cat, Baby, to the emergency room as she was convulsing. 

We know desperate. And so did David. 

David had moments of desperation, however when he wrote Psalm 17, it isn’t clear the context of his level of desperation. We know he’s worried. We know he’s in a desperate situation he can’t figure a way out of. And we also know that he is begging God for help from a troublesome circumstance that he feels convicted he is in the right for. 

Have you ever been so convicted that you plead to God to be just while having crystal clarity that you’re on the right side of the circumstance? Reflect back on a disagreement you have had recently with another person. 

  • Maybe you and your spouse had polarizing opinions on how you handled or didn’t handle a situation with the kiddos. 
  • Possibly a co-worker and you didn’t see eye to eye on a decision that impacted the team. 
  • Could you be giving a family member the silent treatment for their misspoken words that hurt you? 

I was reminded recently in the thick of a challenging situation that neither side of a disagreement is 100 percent in the right. And, typically that is true. The old adage has merit: “There’s your truth, their truth and the real truth somewhere in the middle.”

But that isn’t where David is. His heart is convinced that he was right. But not by his standards; instead, by God’s. 

David was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate prayers. Lucky for us, God hears our desperate requests.

Psalm 17 offers us an opportunity to reflect on our desperate prayers and learn from David how to offer to God prayers of petition. At a high level, this Psalm shows us three things: 

  • What our relationship with the Lord should look like. 
  • What standards we should hold ourselves to. 
  • And our faithfulness in the Lord who answers our prayers and hears us.

What is your relationship with the Lord like? 

We know we should be in relationship with our God, but how can we make that happen when it’s hard to see Him? We can’t reach out and touch Him, per se. And, I don’t know about you, but one-sided chats are challenging. 

Open and Honest Communication

David guides us on how to build a relationship with God in a real and beautiful way. In Psalm 17, David clearly shows that any good relationship is one that is built on honest and open communication. We know that to be true with relationships here on this earth: those with family, friends, spouses, children, coworkers, etc. But that same standard is needed with God. God knows all, yes. But there is freedom when we opt to hide nothing and tell all. 

I recently found myself in a “situation.” I spoke about some hardships and challenges to a family member about a situation with another family member. Unintentionally, I had found myself prompted to overshare a personal situation that I was working through with someone who wasn’t a part of it and didn’t need to know the details of the situation. As the conversation unfolded, I began to get defensive, realizing that the truth in the situation hadn’t been shared and I felt the need to stand my ground. I did and it got back to the person that I was working on reconciling with. That person was hurt, and I was presented an opportunity to fix that hurt. 

I picked up the phone and shared it all. I told the person I was working on healing the relationship with everything I had told the other family member, holding nothing back. In doing so, I wasn’t worried or scared. I wasn’t afraid of going backward. Why? Because I had made a commitment to myself to not say anything to anyone about anyone that I wouldn’t say to the person I was sharing information about directly. There is freedom in committing to open and honest conversations… with others and with God. 


In the NIV version, I counted at least 11 direct pleas from David for the Lord’s help. 

  • Hear me
  • Listen to my cry
  • Hear my prayer
  • Test me
  • I call on you
  • Turn your ear to me
  • Hear my prayer
  • Show me
  • Keep me
  • Rescue me
  • Save me

David is vulnerable with the Lord. He doesn’t hold back his deep vulnerability, begging… pleading for help. The Lord has big shoulders; He can carry the weight and would prefer to. 

Active Relationship

Ever been in a passive relationship? It’s a whole lot of NO FUN! It’s unproductive. It’s silly, even. And, in my opinion, an utter waste of time. 

Passive relationships just go through the motions, but active relationships don’t and the structure of Psalm 17 indicates David’s request for God to actively listen, actively rescue, actively show him, actively keep him safe, and actively save him. Our relationship with God should be active. It shouldn’t be something we just expect; it should be something we should nurture. 

So… what does it take to have an active relationship with God? 

  • As with any relationship, both parties must actively initiate. God and us. We have just as much a charge to initiate conversation as we expect God to. We are challenged to actively enhance our connection to God just as much as we expect him to. It’s not a one-way street, folks. This is a super highway with two lanes of equal importance.
  • Communication is crucial to active relationships, our relationship with God included. It means that we should listen as much (or more) than we talk. We need a willingness to share, discuss and work through things together. Turning to your prayerful space frequently will keep communication lines open. Inviting God into your every day will delight Him!
  • Joint problem solving is pivotal. You’re not going to always have the answers; but God will. We need to turn to Him to help us with our problems while also listening when He identifies problems in us He sees. The latter is harder than the former. But His intentions are pure. 
  • Active relationships require quality time. Relationships are built overnight; they need time to grow. God desires a deep relationship with us, and it’s our charge to actively say yes and be committed to building it with Him.  

What standards do you live by?

Earthly ones? Or Godly ones? 

To be honest, it’s counter-cultural to live by Godly standards. Culture prefers that we focus on things that align with earthly rewards not heavenly ones. It requires us to swim against the currently to shift our standards, but when we do, we can go to God with confidence like David does in Psalm 17, knowing that our plea is just because it’s based on God’s standards not our own. 

David was confident that his call to the Lord was just because it wasn’t based on his standards, but on God’s. We can see this in several parts of this Psalm. 

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.

Psalm 17:3

David invited God in to examine his heart, motives and attitudes. Eek! It’s one thing to know God can see our heart; it’s another to invite Him in to examine it. Would you do that? (I’m not sure I always would!) But this shows how confident David is about his forthcoming request. He knows that he has been tested. He knows his intentions. He knows he has pushed forward and worked hard to focus on God’s will, not his own, and that’s powerful.  

Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded.

Psalm 17:4

David has experienced what we all do: instigations from others to be pulled out of God’s convictions and into earthly ones. The words of others which weren’t built on truth were tempting but didn’t win. God’s words were his guide. Are they your’s? Do you turn to the Word as a GPS for your own life? 

Even though David thought he was right, he called on God’s wisdom to be the final decision. Do we come before the Lord with that posture?

What is your level of faithfulness?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful are you to God? We want him to be 100 percent faithful to us, but do we reciprocate the gesture? (Let’s be honest, friends. We don’t always.) But David proves his level of faithfulness in this Psalm. Verses 6-15 show it to us.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 17:6

David lays his request to the Lord by beginning with the assurance that he knows God is listening and God will answer. Do you have that level of confidence in the Lord when you bring to him your worries? Most of us, if we’re being honest, don’t. But we can learn from David about the power of surrendering it all. Laying it all at His feet with the confidence that if it’s not good, He’s not done. 

Through the rest of Psalm 17, David pleas for help from people who are wicked and focused on the rewards of this world. It appears that he is actively being threatened. Harm is near, and he’s begging for God to act. He’s desperate, but not desperate like we are when we don’t know what will happen. He’s desperate with confidence knowing that God will continue to see him as the apple of His eye and hide him in the shadow of His wings. He knows God because he has an active relationship with Him, and he trusts Him. 

God’s got this!

When we put our trust in a God who loves us, actively seeks a relationship with us, and is faithful, then we know that worldly rewards mean nothing. David states in Psalm 17 that those who seek worldly rewards can have them; he knows his rewards are not of this life.

God can handle our heaviest burdens and worries, friend. In fact, He would prefer to. He sees the heaviness you’re carrying and He wants to lighten the load. He desires for us to turn to Him with deep confidence like David did, knowing that when we call on Him, He answers. 

I pray this devotional on Psalm 17 does something within you, calling you to call on the Lord in a way you never have. Turn to Him. Don’t hold back. Give it all. His shoulders are broad. Together, with Him on your side, you two can conquer anything. 

If this has blessed you, you’ll probably enjoy the podcast we recorded all about the petition and supplication. Check it out here.