3 With the dawning of each new day, prayer is renewed, with the hope that the Lord will soon respond. The “morning” is symbolic of a renewal of God’s acts of love (cf. La 3:23). The change from darkness to light brings with it the association of renewed hope. In the early morning hours (cf. 55:17; 88:13; 92:2) the psalmist sought the Lord (his covenantal God) in prayer because he knew that Yahweh would not forsake him. It is to this end that he presented God with his “requests” (or “offerings”; see Notes). During the day he waited “in expectation” to see what the Lord would do for him.
3. Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation (v. 3). Just as there were morning sacrifices, so prayers were directed to the Lord at that time. This was part of the threefold pattern of daily prayer (cf. Dan. 6:10). The language of sacrifice is carried over here, for ‘lay my requests’ represents the verb used of laying in order the wood (Lev. 1:7) or the victim for sacrifice (Lev. 1:8; 6:12). The psalmist then waits expectantly for God’s answer.
5:3 I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. The Hebrew verb for “lay” is used of laying wood on the altar (Lev. 1:7), preparing a lamp (Ps. 132:17), setting a table (Ps. 23:5), laying out a legal case (Ps. 50:21), and setting forth thoughts (Ps. 40:5; see KJV).2 The NIV translates the verb in the last sense, supplying the missing object “my requests.” The ESV chooses the first meaning, “prepare a sacrifice.” Coupled with the imagery of the morning (sacrifice), this meaning seems preferable, although the ambiguity here is quite impressive (see “Historical and Cultural Background”). The verb “wait” has the same meaning in Habakkuk 2:1, where the prophet stations himself in the tower to “watch” (NIV: “look”) for the oncoming messenger.
3. What a blessed view is here again given of Jesus! The apostle saith he was heard in that he feared. Heb. 5:7. And what an assurance have all the faithful of being heard, when they are led by his Spirit, act faith upon his person and mediation, and thus direct their prayer with the first dawn of the morning, unto him that proves himself the hearer of the prayer of the poor and destitute, and despiseth not their desire. Reader! do put it down as a sure unerring mark, that wherever the Spirit gives grace to pray, the Lord is already come forth to answer prayer. Isaiah 65:24.
3. The words a sacrifice are a translators’ assumption, though probably a correct one. The Hebrew has the single word prepare, which can be used for setting out in order anything from a feast (23:5) to a case at law (50:21), and therefore perhaps for one’s plea to God (av), or one’s self-preparation (‘I hold myself in readiness for you’, jb); but it is often a priestly term for laying the altar fire and arranging the pieces of the burnt offering (Lev. 1:6f.). The emphasis on the morning rather suggests this by its possible allusion to the daily sacrifice at God’s threshold, ‘where I will meet with you, to speak there to you’ (Exod. 29:42). David, it seems, puts his praying into such a context (as in 141:2) to express the assurance of atonement and the total commitment with which he comes before God. But he also comes expectantly. The word watch is used of God’s prophets posted to report the first sign of his answers: cf. Isaiah 21:6, 8; Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 2:1. As at the tent of meeting, God would ‘speak there’, not only listen.
Ver. 3. In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee.—How to begin every day with God:—
- The good work itself that we are to do. To pray. A duty dictated by the light and law of nature, but which the gospel of Christ gives us better instruction in. See how David expresses his pious resolutions.
- My voice shalt Thou hear. Understand as promising himself a gracious acceptance with God. “Thou wilt hear.” It is the language of his faith, grounded upon God’s promise, that His ear shall be always open to His people’s cry. Wherever God finds a praying heart, He will be found a prayer-hearing God. Understand as David’s promising God a constant attendance on Him, in the way He has appointed. God understands the language of the heart, and that is the language in which we must speak to God. We must see to it that God hears from us daily. He expects and requires it. Thus He will keep up His authority over us; and testify His love and compassion towards us. We have something to say to God every day: as to a friend we love, and have freedom with; as to a master we serve, and have business with. Our happiness is bound up in His favour. We have offended Him, and are daily contracting guilt. We have daily work to do for God and our own souls. We are continually in danger. We are dying daily. We are members of that body whereof Christ is the head, and are concerned to approve ourselves living members. Lay all this together, and consider whether you have not something to say to God every day. If you have all this to say to God, what should hinder you from saying it? Let not distance, or fear, hinder you. Let not His knowing what your business is hinder you. Let not any other business hinder our saying what we have to say to God.
- We must direct our prayer to God. We must with deliberation and design address ourselves to Him. The term “direct” indicates fixedness of thought, and a close application of mind, to the duty of prayer. It speaks the sincerity of our habitual intention in prayer: the steadiness of our actual regard to God in prayer.
III. We must look up. We must look up in our prayers; and after our prayers, with an eye of satisfaction and pleasure; with an eye of observation, what returns God makes to our prayers. Let us be inward with God in every duty, to make heart-work of it, or we make nothing of it. The particular time fixed for this good work is the morning. Then we are fresh and lively. Then we are most free from company and business. Then we have received fresh mercies from God, which we are concerned to acknowledge. In the morning we have fresh matter ministered to us for the adoration of the greatness and glory of God. In the morning we are addressing ourselves to the work of the day, and therefore are concerned by prayer to seek unto God for His presence and blessing. (Matthew Henry.)
- The Christian’s resolution. To pray.
- Prayer is a duty and a privilege. It implies spiritual life—filial relationship—freedom of access to God. The spirit of prayer must be earnestly cultivated.
- God is the supreme and immediate object of prayer. “I will direct my prayer unto Thee.” The mediation of priests and saints or of the Virgin Mary superfluous. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble,” &c.
- Prayer must be definite in its aim. “I will direct,” &c. A soul soliloquy is not prayer. Nor is the enumeration of the Divine attributes hid. True prayer is the earnest expression of the deep necessities and longings of the soul in the simplest language possible. The grain of prayer should not be lost in the chaff of vague generalities.
- The best time for private prayer. “In the morning,” &c.
- There is a greater freedom from the distracting cares of the family, business, &c.
- We should seek Divine strength in anticipation of duties, trials, temptations, &c.
- A day begun with prayer, generally proves a happy day.
- The most eminent Christians have devoted the early morning to prayer. Mention some.
III. The becoming attitude for a prayerful soul. “I will look up.” Describe watch-tower.
- We should not be satisfied without the conviction that our prayers have been heard by God. Many prayers never reach the goal of the throne of grace.
- Our prayers should not be forgotten, but an answer looked for. It will be so if our eye be single and our aim definite.
- Such an attitude prepares us for the recognition of the Divine hand in answer to our prayers. (Homilist.)
The essence of real religion is a filial disposition of heart towards God.
- Morning is the time for reflection. It seems natural to think, and to be quiet, in the early morning. The very laws of our physical being demand quiet in the morning.
- Morning is the time for observation. The curtain is drawn aside, and we look upon the face of God’s creation.
- Morning is the time for purpose. We may begin again, every morning, with fresh purposes, that will be achieved if the strength of God is made perfect in our weakness.
- Morning is the time for prayer. As the morning gives wings to the day, so prayer gives wings to the morning. Wise reflections will become wiser through the power of prayer, and our purposes will only be binding on the conscience, or wrought out in the life, as prayer gives them their character of sincerity or religiousness. Mornings are monitors, text-books, and registers. (W. G. Barrett.)
The protective power of prayer:—
Among the elegant forms of insect life, there is a little creature known to naturalists, which can gather round it a sufficiency of atmospheric air—and so clothed upon, it descends into the bottom of the pool, and you may see the little diver moving about dry and at his ease, protected by his crystal vesture, though the water all around and above be stagnant and bitter. Prayer is such a protector—a transparent vesture, the world sees it not—but a real defence, it keeps out the world. By means of it, the believer can gather so much of heaven’s atmosphere around him, and with it descend into the putrid depths of this contaminating world, that for a season no evil will touch him; and he knows where to ascend for a new supply. (James Hamilton.)
A battle is every morning fought in every Christian’s closet. The morning is the key of the position. The season of morning prayer is, so to speak, the citadel, the Hougomont, the critical point in each successive day. If he wins those morning minutes, the devil knows he has won that day. (Ibid.)
The upward look:—
It is said that the monks of Mount Athos are accustomed to hypnotise themselves into trance conditions by gazing at their own bodies—no very ennobling objective if true. In some of the Buddhist monasteries of Eastern Asia devotees are pointed out who have sat facing blank walls for twenty or thirty years and have gazed themselves into mysterious ecstasies. In the modernised Buddhism of London and New York theosophy the same virtue is ascribed to intense and sustained contemplation. What change, think you, ought to effect itself within us if with the same steadfastness we contemplate the personality of Him who is the leader and consummator of our faith? (Thomas G. Selby.)
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
Observe, this is not so much a prayer as a resolution, “ ‘My voice shalt thou hear,’ I will not be dumb, I will not be silent, I will not withhold my speech, I will cry to thee, for the fire that dwells within compels me to pray.” We can sooner die than live without prayer. None of God’s children are possessed with a dumb devil.
“In the morning.” This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Let us give to God the mornings of our days and the morning of our lives. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night. Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.
If we merely read our English version, and want an explanation of these two sentences, we find it in the figure of an archer, “I will direct my prayer unto thee,” I will put my prayer upon the bow, I will direct it towards heaven, and then when I have shot up my arrow, I will look up to see where it has gone. But the Hebrew has a still fuller meaning than this—“I will direct my prayer.” It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and the pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: “I will arrange my prayer before thee;” I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. I will arrange my prayer; or, as old Master Trapp has it, “I will marshal up my prayers,” I will put them in order, call up all my powers, and bid them stand in their proper places, that I may pray with all my might, and pray acceptably.
“And will look up,” or, as the Hebrew might better be translated, “ ‘I will look out,’ I will look out for the answer; after I have prayed, I will expect that the blessing shall come.” It is a word that is used in another place where we read of those who watched for the morning. So will I watch for thine answer, O my Lord! I will spread out my prayer like the victim on the altar, and I will look up, and expect to receive the answer by fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.
Two questions are suggested by the last part of this verse. Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and of hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are live men who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that we often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running; for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolve. Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but he works by means. God made man, but he used the dust of the earth as a material: the Holy Ghost is the author of prayer, but he employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.
But, furthermore, do we not forget to watch the result of our supplications? We are like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. We sow the seed, and are too idle to seek a harvest. How can we expect the Lord to open the windows of his grace, and pour us out a blessing, if we will not open the windows of expectation and look up for the promised favour? Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.
 VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 115). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Harman, A. (2011). Psalms: A Mentor Commentary (Vol. 1–2, pp. 117–118). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.
 Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 39–40). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Hawker, R. (2013). Poor Man’s Old Testament Commentary: Job–Psalms (Vol. 4, p. 175). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, pp. 74–75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 93–95). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.
 Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 1-26 (Vol. 1, p. 46). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.