1 Lord, hear my prayer!
Let my cry reach you!
2 Don’t hide your face from me
in my time of trouble!
Listen to me!
Answer me quickly as I cry out!
3 Because my days disappear like smoke,
my bones are burned up as if in an oven;
4 my heart is smashed like dried-up grass.
I even forget to eat my food
5 because of my intense groans.
My bones are protruding from my skin.
6 I’m like some wild owl—
like some screech owl in the desert.
7 I lie awake all night.
I’m all alone like a bird on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies make fun of me;
those who mock me curse using my name!
9 I’ve been eating ashes instead of bread.
I’ve been mixing tears into my drinks
10 because of your anger and wrath,
because you picked me up and threw me away.
11 My days are like a shadow soon gone.
I’m dried up like dead grass.
12 But you, Lord, rule forever!
Your fame lasts from one generation to the next!
13 You will stand up—
you’ll have compassion on Zion
because it is time to have mercy on her—
the time set for that has now come!
The notes in my Bible say that this psalm is: “A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” That qualification seems like a perfect description for just such a prayer of despair. The image feels very visceral to me. Here is someone who is afflicted, who pours out his complaint…. Perhaps they are even so faint, they are overcome by emotion.
I can easily recall my personal outcries to and for our God. We all have had them! Yours may have been in a moment that was filled with anger, grief, shock and disbelief. Maybe it was a moment of a complete breakdown in hope, a moment of utter despair. Perhaps it was one filled with tears — of shaking a fist at the Lord– or maybe it was simply a moment of quiet surrender.
Whatever our memories of “outcry” to the Lord, whether loud or quiet, we know the timeless nature of what the psalmist feels. Perhaps we remember these images of our grief most often in our bodies. Can we not recall the challenge of the psalm’s sleepless night? Don’t we know the taste of tears in our cup? We understand the loneliness of the screech owl, even though we are different. We know the physical pain of being so distressed that we cannot eat. Our own memories of cries to the Lord can often be felt in our physical beings, just as they were for the psalmist! It makes this ancient lament of the psalmist’s words so timeless.
So when the writer says to God, “You will stand up– you’ll have compassion,” we can feel the longing of such a prayer from an ancient time. We are connected to this longing for the Lord, just like the psalmist thousands of years ago. Therefore, let this timeless memory also remind us that the Lord’s “fame lasts from one generation to the next!”
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Whether our outcries to the Lord are in the face of deep tragedy or the smallest defeat, I believe we are physically connected to our moment of outcry through our senses. Often we are so connected that we can remember what we were thinking, smelling, hearing, etc., when despair/disaster comes. What physical memories do you have about a time of lament? How can/do you share these with our God?
Prayer: Dear God, your ways are timeless. We honor you throughout all the generations. Amen.