Psalms – Prayers of Honesty
There are many kinds of suffering in this world. Some people are mentally and emotionally exhausted because of low self worth thinking they are of no use to anyone. It doesn’t matter how much stuff of wealth they have acquired sitting around them, they lie in the prison of their own thinking. Some people dwell in past hurts, replaying the hurt like a recorded loop in their mind. This too, is emotionally and mentally tiresome and unhealthy.
Some are physically challenged with terminal cancers that are slowly taking their lives or the ones they love. It deeply hurts when those you love hurt. This too, is suffering. Some blame God for his lack of healing, thinking He has gone to lunch and turned away from their physical needs.
Some lives are tortured by their own unconfessed sin. They are sorry they got caught. They are miserable living in the sin but not enough to look up and ask God for help. They wallow and list excuses but don’t accept and believe that help from the Almighty Forgiving God is just a prayer away. They think living this way is their penance for just being unlucky in life.
Others are overwhelmed by financial collapse either of their own doing or not. They feel all is lost and life as they know it has come to an end. Physical sickness can soon follow when you feel you have lost control over your life.
Others are harassed every day for believing in God and following His ways. Some are tortured and put in jail, having all their family possessions taken away and houses burned to the ground. Their young are sold as slaves to others while they watch from a jail cell. Yes, these things still happen in our world today.
The writer of today’s Psalm of honest prayer is wondering if God is listening. He is crying out to God and telling Him what God already knows as if God didn’t realize how bad his life is right now. Do we pray honestly like this? Is it okay to be this honest before God?
Psalm 102, The Message
A Prayer of One Whose Life Is Falling to Pieces, and Who Lets God Know Just How Bad It Is
1-2 God, listen! Listen to my prayer,
listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
just when I need you so desperately.
Pay attention! This is a cry for help!
And hurry—this can’t wait!
3-11 I’m wasting away to nothing,
I’m burning up with fever.
I’m a ghost of my former self,
half-consumed already by terminal illness.
My jaws ache from gritting my teeth;
I’m nothing but skin and bones.
I’m like a buzzard in the desert,
a crow perched on the rubble.
Insomniac, I twitter away,
mournful as a sparrow in the gutter.
All day long my enemies taunt me,
while others just curse.
They bring in meals—casseroles of ashes!
I draw drink from a barrel of my tears.
And all because of your furious anger;
you swept me up and threw me out.
There’s nothing left of me—
a withered weed, swept clean from the path.
12-17 Yet you, God, are sovereign still,
always and ever sovereign.
You’ll get up from your throne and help Zion—
it’s time for compassionate help.
Oh, how your servants love this city’s rubble
and weep with compassion over its dust!
The godless nations will sit up and take notice
—see your glory, worship your name—
When God rebuilds Zion,
when he shows up in all his glory,
When he attends to the prayer of the wretched.
He won’t dismiss their prayer.
18-22 Write this down for the next generation
so people not yet born will praise God:
“God looked out from his high holy place;
from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed,
he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion,
so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets
And wherever people gather together
along with their rulers to worship him.
23-28 God sovereignty brought me to my knees,
he cut me down in my prime.
“Oh, don’t,” I prayed, “please don’t let me die.
You have more years than you know what to do with!
You laid earth’s foundations a long time ago,
and handcrafted the very heavens;
You’ll still be around when they’re long gone,
threadbare and discarded like an old suit of clothes.
You’ll throw them away like a worn-out coat,
but year after year you’re as good as new.
Your servants’ children will have a good place to live
and their children will be at home with you.”
WHEW…DO YOU FEEL BETTER? NO?
The anonymous author probably wrote it long after the destruction of Jerusalem, about the time he thought Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy-year captivity was about to be fulfilled. According to the title, the psalmist was afflicted, weak and burdened enough to present his complaint (“lament,” NIV) to the Lord.
He was groaning in distress and weeping over the ruins of Jerusalem. His opening prayer in verses 1-2 draws from a number of other psalms, giving us an example of what it means to pray the Word of God. As believers face and deal with the painful crises that come to us, if we are to overcome and glorify God, we must keep three assurances before us.
1. The Changing Circumstances of Life (vv. 1-11). What can we always count on in this life? Circumstances and situations will not be forever. They, in fact, are forever changing. Our environments change. People change. Moods are always changing. Work situations change. Even churches change as people change. A better question might be, WHO can we count on?
Whether we are suffering because of our sins, or because we stand up for the Lord, or simply because we need to be better equipped for service, these changes are not pleasant. Our lives are constantly engulfed in a sea of change. The waves are calm one day and rough the next. The believer rides the waves with God leading us to the shore.
One of the first steps toward personal peace and victory is to accept the fact that there will be changes in life, and how we respond will determine what these changes do to us and for us. The psalmist responded by turning to the Lord for help.
2. The Unchanged Covenant of God (vv. 12-22).
The throne of David was gone and would not be claimed until the Son of David came to earth (Luke 1:30-33), but the throne of God in heaven was secure. Judah and Jerusalem were experiencing shame, but God’s “memorial name” of great renown would not change. One day the nations would respect that name and praise that name in a new Jerusalem. From generation to generation, His people had known and revered that name and the Lord had not failed them, but they failed the Lord.
He had made a wonderful covenant with His people (Lev. 25–26; Deut. 28–30) and had not changed it. If His people obeyed His law, He would bless them, but if they disobeyed and turned to idols, He would chasten them. Either way, He would show His love and faithfulness. He hears the prayers of His people and one day will answer them. Israel and the Gentile nations will assemble and worship the Lord together
3. The Changeless Character of God (vv. 23-28).
The psalmist was afraid he would die in midlife and never see the restoration of Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple. The eternal God would remain forever, but frail humans have only a brief time on earth.
This passage (vv. 25-27) is quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12 and applied to Jesus Christ, which reminds us that it is in Him that these promises will be fulfilled. He is God, and He is the same from generation to generation (Heb. 13:5-8).
God’s promises and purposes will be fulfilled. The psalmist closed his prayer by remembering the future generations, for though he did not see his prayer answered in his day, he knew that the answer would come.
HE is God and we are not. We change. God does not. God sees what we cannot see. God knows what we can only imagine…for now.
What word would you use to describe the writer’s mood in this psalm?
What is your mood today?
How can confidence in the Lord enable you to rise above changing circumstances?
What helps us have this confidence, or what hinders us?
Tell God honestly how you feel and then listen for Him…
Dear Heavenly Father,
Through the pain and suffering, depression and anxieties of the psalmist you speak encouragement to our hearts. You are amazing in Your ways of teaching us. You are all knowing. You are unchanging in your love, in your ways, in salvation, and in fulfilled promises. You never fail us. You pick us up when we fall down. We can count on You always and forever. I praise Your Name. I am no longer looking down myself. Thank you, Lord. Continue to teach us. Transform us. I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.
In Jesus Name, Amen