Monday, November 18, 2013

Another psalm for a desperate time...

...but this one's written by the King.

No not Elvis; King David.

After having written my own desperate psalm yesterday, wouldn't you know it? The psalm I had to write about for my church today was another psalm for desperate times: this one a "psalm of David" - Psalm 143.

David’s troubles make him aware of his own sins. He's oppressed by a nameless enemy – maybe an actual person, maybe his sins – and the result is a collapse of morale. He remembers enjoying God’s goodness to him in the past, but the present, by contrast, seems bone dry and starved of blessing. His dire need leads to urgent prayer. The psalm finishes with a declaration of trust in God and a fresh commitment to be God’s servant.

This kind of psalm teaches me about prayer, particularly prayer when I'm distressed:

It's honest. David tells God just how desperate he is. He acknowledges his own rottenness, but he is also bold enough to argue his case with God: "Enter not into judgement with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you" (v.2). That's pretty bold!

 It's urgent. Not for David a mealy-mouthed ‘If-it-be-Thy-will’ prayer: he demands that God answers – and soon! "Answer me quickly"; "Let me hear in the morning" (in other words, David doesn’t want to wait until the afternoon!) (v.8).

It honours God even in desperation. Despite David’s agony and fear, he ends this prayer by asserting God’s faithfulness: "In your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul" (v.12). Even in suffering, David remains faithful to God.

I'm left thinking: my enemies can be people who oppose me in one way and another, my sins and follies, my destructive habits, or mysterious spiritual oppressions. What enemies am I facing at the moment and how can I overcome them? And if I was to rate my prayer life for honesty, how would I fare?

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