Saturday, September 24, 2011

Psalm 17 – Solemn Prayer for Help

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” ~Psalm 17:15 (NRSV).

Now we return to the regular theme of David: lament. This psalm is a prayer proving the anointed one’s reliance on the Lord. If there is nothing else we take from this plea it is the benefit of peace that comes from hiding (verse 8) in the Lord.

“I Have Done No Wrong”

The first five verses detail David’s desperately nonplussed mood at the lack of just vindication; his cause had not been heard. This is not a declaration of comprehensive innocence, but of innocence in the situation.

Prayer is the right response in such situations. When we feel hopelessly outpointed—the day done to the dogs—just that awareness to come before our God; this is what we need.

What we are given is a moment of respite, as reassurance provides the insight that today, however bad, is not all there is.

Sharing with God the Details of Our Woes

We can easily wonder, just how does prayer work. The beauty of David’s prayer is the model he adopts. He vocalises the issues, point by point, spilling his naked vitriol in the Presence of the highest heaven.

Somehow the blessings of heavenly empathy are felt here, as time and again, not just in this psalm, a fresh declaration of confidence is made in the final verses.

We suspect this, also, in our own lives. The more we’ve earnestly sought God in prayer—spending more than a few minutes, and perhaps up to a day or more with the Almighty—the more we’ve realised the role of prayer.

In lament, the role of prayer is one of reflection, initially, and rejuvenation upon encouragement to know our God listens; more than that, the Sovereign Lord will restore just balance eventually. In the meantime, he restores our blessed equilibrium so we can go another round of life.

Like David (in verse 13), furthermore, who better to place our petitions before than God?

Where the Prayer Lands

Prayers, after they are initiated and spent, finish in the bond of trust. Merely the exertion of spiritual and emotional energy commands there be some relief in our fatigue. Sometimes, like when a muscle spasms, it’s only when we are utterly spent that the Lord has a chance to ‘release’ and revive us.

Verse 15 is the key.

Waking afresh on a surprisingly bright and chirpy morning, we are able to say in our heart of hearts, “I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.”

Our authentic prayers land in the lap of the blessings of God, to lift us out of lament, and to kick-start our faith once more, so we might follow the Almighty all the more closely.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms - Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 108-12.

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