In some Hebrew manuscripts, Psalms 42 & 43 are one psalm. When reading both together, you can understand why. The phrase “Why must I go about mourning?” occurs in both (42:9; 43:2). The phrase “Why are you downcast O my soul?” occurs at the end of three approximately equal sections (see 42:5, 11; 43:5).
This is not a David psalm, but the psalm of a temple singer who is in exile. If it is exile, then it is in country north of Israel, near Mt. Hermon (42:6), so he isn’t exiled far, but it does seem that the exile is due to a foreign invader, an ungodly nation (43:1), an “enemy” (43:2).
Of all the things an exile would pray for – return to family, friends, prosperity, homeland, it is significant that the Psalmist prays not for any of those things, but for a return to worship – to God’s holy mountain and altar.
For the most part, citizens of my country love our nation. We unabashedly refer to it as the greatest nation on earth and would not want to live anywhere else. But those with a heart focused on God, though patriotic, often find ourselves feeling exiled because of the direction our nation travels, led all too often by forces that have no regard for God. In times like these, Psalms 42 and 43 provide vocabulary for prayer. However downcast we feel though, we have not yet been separated from our worship and for that we can be thankful. We can demonstrate such thankfulness by actually going to worship — and worshiping, regularly and often. The freedom to worship for which we so often give thanks is a hollow blessing to those who do not take advantage of it.