This past week we studied Psalm 13, progressing slowly through the first book of the Psalms over the course of this year. When I prepare sermons, I put a “subject” at the top of the page. For the past too-many-too-count psalms the subject has been lament, reminding me that psalms of lament predominate the first book of the Psalms. The repetitive subject of lament may tempt you to think that all we’re talking about are sad songs, a temptation we must resist. Lament is a bigger, more nuanced category than just sad. In Psalm 13, lament takes on the theme of frustration at God’s apparent lack of action on David’s behalf. David is vocally agitated at God, expecting that a remedy to his problem should’ve arrived long ago.
In this psalm, David provides us with three aspects to honest prayer, that, if practiced regularly, have potential to open up more opportunities for you to go to God in prayer. I say “more opportunities,” because so many Christians don’t pray because they think they have run out of things for which to pray, having convinced themselves that they are only to pray when in the depths of sorrow or heights of elation, rejecting experiences of agitation or confusion as not appropriate for prayer. In Psalm 13, David is helping us to feel a holy comfort in bringing our frustrations to God.
The 3 Aspects of Honest Prayer
- Cry out to God with honest confusion. Honest confusion is a very appropriate way to begin a prayer. What are your “How long, O Lord?” prayers? We know God’s character that he is sovereign, loving, powerful, good, wise, and holy. But we also live in a fallen world filled with troubling circumstances that we often can’t decipher to figure out what God is up to. God wants to hear the feelings that bubble up when we struggle with the apparent gap between the greatness of our God and the challenges we face in our lives.
- Cry out to God with bold requests. David is almost demanding in his petitions, leveling imperatives like “consider me” and “answer me.” While retaining all respect and reverence for God, there is a place to give full vent to our prayers and requests. Don’t hold back on your bold prayers. On Sunday, we looked at Martin Luther’s bold prayer for his friend Philip Melancthon and how the Lord answered.
- Cry out to God with a faithful commitment. David ends his prayer with an admission of God’s steadfast love and David’s trust in that love. This is very, very instructive. David does not root his prayers in God’s eventual response as if God is someone that can be bartered with, some cosmic-prayer-slot-machine. David roots his prayers in his ongoing relationship with God regardless of how God decides best to respond to David’s requests.
In this way, we have both an important prayer in Psalm 13 and a pattern for prayer. By learning from David’s example, we can begin to cultivate a prayer life that is more thematically diverse than just the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows. We can enter into the middle where life is difficult, God is still good, and we find the safest place is with our Lord in prayer.