David’s prayer in Psalm 25:16 is a little gospel in miniature: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” At least two elements in this verse are significant: what he realizes about himself, and what he asks God to do for him:
First, he realizes his own state of need. He says he is “afflicted”.” This is the Hebrew word “ani”, which means “poor, afflicted, needy.” It is significant that this is the Old Testament forerunner of the word Jesus uses later in Matthew 5:3, where He proclaims, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Admitting one’s need, one’s sin, and their consequent inability to save themselves, is the first step towards being saved.
(There is an interesting play on words in the Hebrew text of :16. The next-to-last word is “ani” (spelled with a silent Hebrew letter “ayin”) which means “poor, wretched, needy” — the “poor in spirit.” The last word in the verse is also pronounced “ani” (but spelled with the silent Hebrew letter “aleph”), which is the personal pronoun “I”. We can translate these last two words, “needy, I”. But they would sound very similar when spoken: “ani, ani”, giving a kind of poetic play on words to the expression.)
Of more significance is what David does with the realization of his spiritual need. He brings it to God and asks Him to be gracious to him. Again, this is a fundamental part of the Christian message: once we have realized our sin, we ask God to be gracious to us in Jesus Christ. We ask for Him to be “gracious” because we have not earned, and do not deserve, His help. And we are certainly not saved by our own goodness, which is the essential thrust of most world religions. Rather the Christian message is not that we are good people who have earned God’s favor. It is that like David, we are spiritually needy, but have asked for — and found — God’s gracious salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us.
It is not complicated. Whoever would be saved need merely call on the Lord like David did in Psalm 25:16, “Be gracious to me, for I am poor in spirit.”