The Righteous One’s Petitions
In His Darkest Hours

a brief study of Psalm 70, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 10 October 2008

Psalm 70 is really an extract of Psalm 40. There is very little material difference between Psalm 70 and Psalm 40:13-17.

Psalm 40 is almost universally regarded as a Messianic Psalm. It is the Psalm in which Christ speaks of His taking on a human body to offer Himself a sacrifice to fulfil prophecy.

So Psalm 70 may be taken as the word of Christ, though all believers united to Christ may appropriate it to themselves when they are suffering trials and persecution similar to what the Lord endured.

But why is this extract made? Why is it placed here in the Psalter? Some believe that it is placed here to serve as a prayerful extension of Psalm 69, which is another Messianic Psalm quoted regularly in the New Testament to reflect the suffering of our Lord on the Cross. This may be so. But read in the context of both Psalm 40 and Psalm 69, these are petitions of our Lord as He hung on the Cross of Calvary for our sakes. We may entitle it, “The Petitions of the Righteous One in His Darkest Hours.”

It contains a prayer for deliverance (v. 1, 5), a prayer for justice (v. 2-3) and a prayer for blessing (v. 4).

Consider these 3 elements of His prayer.

1. A Prayer for Deliverance

1  Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD.

The Righteous one was on the Cross. His suffering was real and intense. He had a reason to be there. He was doing the will of His Father. He must pay for the sin of His people if He were to redeem them.

But our Lord was no stoic. He felt the pain, and He desired to be delivered from it. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

Our Lord knew that He had to go to the Cross, though His human feelings cringed from it. This is why our Lord prayed the way He did. For though His divine will is the same as the Father’s will, the emotional aspects of His human will lagged behind. So we can imagine that our Lord’s constant prayer unto His Father must have been: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

It is for this same reason that our Lord prays, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD.

Our Lord knew that He was suffering for His people. He knew that He needed to suffer God’s curse in order that his people might enjoy God’s blessing. For this reason, immediately after He prays for the Lord’s blessing to be upon His people, verse 4, He repeats His prayer for deliverance in these words, verse 5—

5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.

Our Lord was ‘poor and needy’ because He was suffering for us. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Cor 8:9). Our Lord was poor and needy for our sakes. But every moment when He suffered poverty and need was a moment too long—for the suffering was intense!

But our Lord did not only pray for deliverance. He prayed for justice as well.

2. A Prayer for Justice

2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt. 3 Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.

The enemies of Christ are the enemies of God. Because He is perfectly just, He knows that His enemies who ought to know but are persecuting Him are hundred percent in the wrong to persecute Him.

It is true that not all who persecuted Him knew what they were doing. Our Lord prayed for those who were misled: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” His prayers are always heard, for His prayers are always fully in accordance to the Father’s will.

So too, our Lord’s prayers of imprecation against those who ought to know, but yet persecute Him. The scribes and Pharisees, and the priests were certainly included in this number.

These are those who refused to take heed to His call to repent of their sin of unbelief and hypocrisy. These are those who persecuted Him out of jealousy, indignation and hatred, for they took umbrage against Him for exposing their wickedness.

Our Lord minced no words in His prayers against them. He sought to please no man but God. He cared not for political correctness. He cared not about offending sinners. He prayed courageously.

None of us can pray an imprecation with the same confidence as our Saviour, for none of us is without sin. But if we are to imitate the Lord, we must also learn to be fearless in praying for the glory of the Father against those who would bring shame to His name.

But let us be careful not to become cynical and negative in our prayers, for our Lord would always balance His imprecations with prayers for blessings, as we see in the third petition of this Psalm.

3. A Prayer for Blessing

4 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

Our Lord came for His people. In particular, He came for the needy, the poor, the sick, the downcast and the sinners. He came for those who recognise that they are nothing, have nothing and deserve nothing but the Wrath of God.

These are those who would seek the LORD, for those who are self-sufficient and self-righteous would not seek Him.

These are those who know that they can have no real joy except they know that the Father is pleased with them.

These are those who know they need a Savior to deliver them out of their sin and out of the Wrath of God.

Our Lord calls upon the Father to bless these. He desires that they would know the joy and gladness of the Lord. He desires that they would be saved so that forever and ever, their lives and their lips would “say continually, Let God be magnified.

This is our Lord’s deepest desire, even as He suffered on the Cross for our sin. So great was His suffering that His cries for deliverance envelops this Psalm. But so great is His love for His people that He does not forget them in the midst of His suffering.


What is this Psalm to you, beloved brethren and children? I trust that this Psalm has given you another glimpse of our Savior’s inner thoughts—even His pain, His zeal for the glory of God, and His desires for us.

But may this Psalm also encourage us to imitate our Lord in prayer in our darkest hours—to pray not only for deliverance, but for the glory of God and for the good of His people. May the Lord help us! Amen.

—JJ Lim