Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
Many Christians will admit that they find it hard to pray. Amid life's busyness, it's difficult to maintain a regular, disciplined prayer life. In particular, it can be hard to keep on praying when God doesn't seem to hear or answer. We pray to find a job. We pray for healing. We pray for the salvation of family members. But it sometimes seems that these prayers are falling on God's deaf ears.
Many of the psalms express this kind of frustration, with God's faithful people wondering why God seems so distant in their time of suffering. In the opening two verses of Psalm 13, David asks the Lord four times: ″How long?″ David feels forgotten by the Lord, and wonders if God will ever listen to his cries for help (v. 1). Once again, the cause of his sorrow is some unnamed enemy. But God's silence has made his anguish even deeper, so there is sorrow in his heart (v. 2).
At the beginning of the psalm, David prays: ″How long will you hide your face from me?″ (v. 1). Then he prays for the Lord to turn around and ″look on me″ (v. 3). Back in Numbers, God told Aaron to say to Israel: ″The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace″ (Numbers 6:24-26). God turns His face towards us to bless us, and this is what David asks of the Lord.
Psalms is full of songs like these, where God's people lament. In almost every case, though, the final words are not of despair, but hope. Here, David trusts and rejoices in God's salvation and sings of God's goodness. This doesn't mean that he's stopped hurting and his problems have disappeared, but in the midst of lament he can have faith and rejoice.
God gives us permission to express our human emotion and cry out: ″How long, Lord?″ The Lord knows that maintaining faith while living in a hostile world isn't easy, and He has given us songs of sorrow to pour out our troubles to Him and to reassure ourselves of His faithfulness and power.
We usually don't know why the Lord sometimes seems to delay in answering prayer. In a parable about a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus tells us that He will definitely hear and answer our cries for justice. In the meantime, let us remain faithful in prayer, for ″when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?″ (v. 8).
Have you had prayer experiences in which God seemed to be a long time in answering? How should we respond in such situations?
In the midst of hurts, doubts, and sorrows, how can David still sing praises to God? What can we learn from this?