Tuesday, January 1, 2019

"Hear my prayer...."

From Psalm 102 (ESV)

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. ....

For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations....

He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.

I eat ashes for food. My tears run down into my drink because of your anger and wrath. For you have picked me up and thrown me out.... He broke my strength in midlife, cutting short my days. (Psalm 102:9-10, 23)

May you never have to suffer in the ways described in verses 3-11. But many have and many do, even this very moment. Maybe you do too. Jesus did. Take these words and pray them as your own, either to express what you feel or to identify with the sufferings of God's people and God's Son. Say them slowly and repeatedly.

But you, O LORD, will sit on your throne forever. Your fame will endure to every generation. (Psalm 102:12)

Count the personal pronouns in verses 1-11. You'll find I, me, or my mentioned twenty-five times in just eleven verses. There's nothing wrong with that; pain will do that to anyone. It's not self-absorption; it's just that the self can be swallowed up in the suffering. Pain confines.

That's why the words "But you, O LORD" are so liberating. They are like a fresh breeze in a stale sickroom. The loving, sovereign God who rules forever from his throne in heaven puts everything in perspective; for it is from his throne that he "causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28).

Look at all the things that trouble you, name them before God, and then add, "But you, O LORD, will sit on your throne forever."
From Ben Patterson, God's Prayer Book, 2008.