August 7 I Saturday
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” —Psalm 43:5
If we are honest with ourselves, during this past year, there had been days when we were struggling emotionally, mentally and physically. We may want to reach out to God in prayer, but find ourselves struggling with the right words. Some of us may have the image of prayer as simply sitting quietly and seeking peace with God, while we try to come up with some good feelings as we pray. This kind of prayer is rooted in nothingness; we are just wandering around with our thoughts. As we turn to the book of Psalms, we find examples of raw honesty in prayers before God.
The Psalms were compiled while Judah was in exile in Babylon. Some believe Ezra, the Old Testament scribe and priest, was the one responsible for gathering the book and assembling it together. The Psalms formed a prayer book, a gathering of writings where the nation of Israel could worship their God while in exile. The Psalms were organized into five books as a way to mirror the five books of the law that outlined the worship system for the nation of Israel. This would be the prayer book that Jesus Himself was taught as a Jewish boy. In fact, the book that Jesus quoted more than any other Old Testament book when He spoke in the Gospels was the Psalms.
It is important to recognize that when we enter into Psalms—into the school of prayer—that this book is a prayer-rooted response to God. In Eugene Peterson’s Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, he writes, “The Psalms set their faces against this lush eroticism, this rank jungle growth of desire seeking fulfillment. In a world of prayers that indulge the religious ego and cultivate passionate longings, the Psalms stand out with a kind of angular austerity. The Psalms are acts of obedience, answering the God who has addressed us. God’s word precedes these words: these prayers don’t seek God, they respond to the God who seeks us.”
The Psalms are not simply a spiritual form of prayer that is rooted in good feelings, or a neat and tidy form of prayer. Rather, it is a form of prayer that wrestles with what God had spoken. It could be abrasive at times, and extremely raw in its honesty. The reason that the psalmists prayed the type of prayer they did was because that was how life was. May we glean from the transparency of the different psalmists’ emotions and expressions in the book of Psalms, and humbly come before God, pouring our true heart to Him in prayer.
Prayer: Glorious God, I come before You with all my hurts, my struggles and my pain. In You alone do I find hope for the circumstances and life events that I face. Thank You, Lord, for hearing my true heart’s cry to You.