I call with all my heart! Answer me, Lord; I will keep your statutes.
I call out to you, save me, and I will observe your decrees.
I rise in the twilight and cry for help. Upon your word I wait.
My eyes greet each watch of the night, that I may consider your promise.
Hear my voice, Lord, in your steadfast love; give me life by your judgment.
Those pursuing evil draw near. From your law they are far.
You are near, Lord; and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your decrees, that you established them forever.
The fourth last stanza of Psalm 119 (verses 145–52) describes the nearness and distance of God in prayer. There is a sense of longing and distance. The psalmist calls repeatedly, throughout the night, with all his heart, in earnest. He waits. His prayers are not immediately answered. He has no instant assurance. His enemies draw near: they are, from the most obvious perspective, the thing that is real in his world. Yet the psalmist has a rock on which to stand: his confidence in the Word of God and his assurance on its basis that the Lord is in fact near. His Word is true, he has known it from long ago; and so he trusts it and knows God’s presence.
This stanza is a reminder, it seems to me, that the presence of God is not always easy to experience. We know God’s nearness not primarily by feeling it, but by believing it, by believing God’s promise to be near and holding to it. The assurance of his presence God gives us is very often his word to us that he is in fact near. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).