My prayers are often feeble. I pray for health, the next day or thank God for His provision. Honestly, I would probably be better off not praying sometimes. How often do you see David praying for his health in the Psalms?
The men of Hope Fellowship have been going through the Psalms the last several months. Rather than be comforted, I've been increasingly frustrated.
These prayers of David (mostly) are things that I increasingly think and pray:
- "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" 10:1
- "Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted." 10:12
- "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" 13:1,2a
- "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help." 18:6
Before coming to the Rez, I read all these passages and spiritualized them. If I could identify with them at all -- it is hard to identify with a person that suffers when you remove yourself from any opportunity to live life with those that suffer -- they turned into prayers about how lame my devotional life was.
It is impossible for me to read these passages the same way now. There is much suffering in this world. Suburban America does all it can to insulate itself from suffering. But God calls us to seek out those that are suffering and show them the love of Christ: we are called to visit orphans and widows in their affliction (James 1:27).
I see suffering now and my heart breaks. Almost daily I have the good fortune to interact with people on the Reservation that have suffered in ways I cannot imagine: children without parents, children living with whomever will take them, drug and alcohol addiction, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I see how kids act that go through this, I see their lack of emotion, in others their anger, their mistrust. We spend a few hours with them each week and then we send them back home to trauma and chaos.
And I ask "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
The current theme of our youth group is "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). There are days I'm sick of that verse.
My hope is in the Lord. I know Christ will return to judge both the quick and the dead. I have no doubt that Christ is the All-in-All and one day, when He returns, all things will be made new.
But I want to see it.
I want to see suffering end. I want to see families made whole. I want to see people turn to Christ and grab hold of the life saving Gospel.
So, I'm changing the way I pray. Hebrews tells us "with confidence draw near to the throne of grace." With confidence. Other versions say "come boldly."
The Creator of the Universe wants us to come to Him boldly, bringing our cares and concerns to him. Can I pray as confidently and boldly as David?
- "Consider and answer me, O LORD my God." Psalm 13:3
- "Hear a just cause, O LORD, attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!" Psalm 17:1-2
- "I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me: hear my words." Psalm 17:6
Or what about Daniel? Can you imagine being this bold in prayer?
"O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have because a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his please for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name." Daniel 9:16-19
It is my hearts wish that my prayer might elicit the same response Daniel's did:
"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel . . . made me understand, . . . saying, . . . "At the beginning of your please for mercy a word went out." Daniel 9:20-23
I long for the day when the Father answers and says:
- "'Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,' says the LORD; 'I will place him in the safety for which he longs.'" Psalms 12:5
- "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry." Psalm 18:6-7