‘"O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!'"
Divine commands should direct us in the subject of our prayers. We cannot of ourselves keep God's statutes as he would have them kept, and yet we long to do so: what resort have we but prayer? We must ask the Lord to work our works in us, or we shall never work out his commandments. This verse is a sigh of regret because the Psalmist feels that he has not kept the precepts diligently, it is a cry of weakness appealing for help to one who can aid, it is a request of bewilderment from one who has lost his way and would fain be directed in it, and it is a petition of faith from one who loves God and trusts in him for grace.
Our ways are by nature opposed to the way of God, and must be turned by the Lord's direction in another direction from that which they originally take, or they will lead us down to destruction. God can direct the mind and will without violating our free agency, and he will do so in answer to prayer; in fact, he has begun the work already in those who are heartily praying after the fashion of this verse. It is for present holiness that the desire arises in the heart: oh, that it were so now with me! But future persevering holiness is also meant; for he longs for grace to keep henceforth and for ever the statutes of the Lord.
The sigh of the text is really a prayer, though it does not exactly take that form. Desires and longings are of the essence of supplication, and it little matters what shape they take. ‘"Oh, that'" is as acceptable a prayer as ‘"Our Father.'"
One would hardly have expected a prayer for direction; rather should we have looked for a petition for enabling. Can we not direct ourselves? What if we cannot row, we can steer. The Psalmist herein confesses that even for the smallest part of his duty he felt unable without grace. He longed for the Lord to influence his will, as well as to strengthen his hands. We want a rod to point out the way as much as a staff to support us in it. The longing of the text is prompted by admiration of the blessedness of holiness, by a contemplation of the righteous man's beauty of character, and by a reverent awe of the ,command of God. It is a personal application to the writer's own: case of the truths which he had been considering. ‘"0 that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!'" It were well if all who hear the word would copy this example and turn all that they hear into prayer. We should have more keepers of the statutes if we had more who sigh and cry after the grace which alone can keep them from wandering.