1I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Now why does the Psalmist love the Lord? Is it because he knows his prayers will be answered? Is his love motivated by a selfish desire to get what he wants? “No,” I thought to myself, “That can’t be right.” That wouldn’t be a pure love; it would be self-serving love which isn’t love at all. In order for his love to be pure he must love God for who he is, not what he gives.
I decided to consult with my trusty Treasury of David by Spurgeon. I was right. Spurgeon writes,
“Answered prayers are silken bonds which bind our hearts to God. When a man’s prayers are answered, love is the natural result”
The Psalmist’s love for the Lord is for present and past mercies, not future guarantees of what he can get. I love my wife for the many kind things she does for me because I know I am undeserving of them. If I thought I deserved them, I would not love her the same. In fact, I might not love her at all for I would expect these things from her. Now if she did none of these kind things, I would still love her but perhaps not to the same extent. The same goes in my relationship with God. I will love God whether he answers my prayer or not. But his answered prayer shows how great his mercies are to undeserving sinners so I will love him all the more. Thomas Manton puts it this way:
The proper intent of mercies is to draw us to God. When the heart is full of a sense of the goodness of the Lord, the tongue cannot hold its peace. Self-love may lead us to prayers, but love to God excites us to praises: therefore to seek and not to praise, is to be lovers of ourselves rather than of God.
In short, we love God for who is he and for the mercy he bestows on us in answering our requests, for we understand we deserve none of it. Any further answered prayer would be a greater expression of this mercy, though we don’t expect nor demand it. So now we have a better understanding of the Psalmist’s response to God’s goodness in verses 12-13:
12What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
13I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord
Dare to ask more so that you may receive more and the love you already have for God in your heart will abound all the more. That’s how the beauty of Psalm 116 works.