Day 161: Psalms 38-42; Praying the Psalms

Today’s Psalms are all prayers, maybe with the exception being Psalm 40.  They are impassioned laments that are put forth by David to God, again with the exception being Psalm 40.  Each one follows a very similar cadence that, being people of prayer, we can use as models for our own prayer life because there are always those times when we just don’t know what to pray for.  You know, like when you have 20 things on your to do list for the day and it is only 6:03… AM… Or when all your kids and spouse are sick at the same time and you just worked a full day… Or when you just can’t seem to get along with a family member and there is tension everywhere in the house so thick that you could cut it with a knife… Or work has just been awful lately and you despise your job but need to continue going for the sake of your family…

These and many more the the difficult situations that we encounter in our lives.  They are life draining and when we come to our time of devotions and prayer, we just don’t have anything left to give.  Romans 8 tells us that in those times the Spirit prays for us on our behalf with groanings that are too deep for words.  Even with this assurance, it is still sometimes nice to be able to speak the words that we want to God and to express our anguish, frustration, sorrows, and struggles to the Lord.  Psalms like these are good ways of doing that.  When you read them, did you hear the groanings of David’s spirit?  Did you find your own spirit groaning alongside of the words?  Sometimes I think that even when I can bring myself to pray these words are still much more eloquent and express my feelings better than even I can.

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water... Photo Credit:

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water…
Photo Credit:

Yet its not about eloquence and neither is it about expressing one’s self in a way that is good for the one.  God knows our hearts and our struggles and he wants you to bring them before him.  He doesn’t care if you are using the right adverb or pronoun.  He doesn’t care if you cross back and forth between the past and the present tense.  He doesn’t even care if you can’t spell some of the words that you are using.  What God wants is for you to come to Him, and in many ways David is showing us a model of how to do that in a way that is good.

Yes… a way that is good.  Why do I say that?  So often we come before God and our prayer is something to the effect of:
“Dear Lord, Thanks for today.  Please be with this, please help me with that.  Please make this go away, please heal me from that.  God, please make my boss like me more, and help me to get a good grade on the exam.  Oh yeah, and bring peace on earth and be with sick and the poor… amen.”
Sound familiar?  Well it isn’t for me to criticize anyone’s personal prayers, I think it is important to see the nature of how David addresses God in these prayer Psalms.  It is entirely similar to how he addresses God in all of his psalms of lament.  David is not afraid to pour out his heart before the Throne of God.  He does not mind laying all of his burdens before the throne, however David is always very quick to make the turn from requests to placing his trust and hope in God.  Many times he spends a significant amount of time tell God why it is that he trusts the Lord and doesn’t simply place his own needs in front of the greatness of God.

I think this is the model that we need to follow when we come before God.  We need to understand that God isn’t some cosmic vending machine that we put prayer tokens into and get blessings out of.  We need to remember the whole story of God and how He has done so many great things for us all the time… that He redeemed our lives from the sin… that His grace and love flow freely even when we can’t feel it!

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God…

…Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

PSALM 38 is prayer of Lament that is written by David.  This is probably one of the darkest Psalms we will read.  Yet even here were are not left without a ray of hope and the trust the David so normally exhibits.

PSALM 39 is also a prayer of Lament that is written by David.  This too is a dark Psalm, but also clearly shows David’s trust and hope in the Lord.

PSALM 40 is a song of thanksgiving that is somewhat unique in that it is also imprecatory in nature.  Usually a psalm of thanksgiving is full of praise, yet this one is weaves together Davids thankfulness to God for all that He has done while also asking that justice will come for the evil.  The latter verses, 13-17, are also repeated in Psalm 70.

PSALM 41 is a Davidic psalm that laments an illness.  Like all of David’s psalms, he includes a ray of hope in this psalm as well.  At the end of this psalm we hear a doxology that is both written into this prayer but is also a transition piece from “Book 1” to “Book 2” of the Psalms.

PSALM 42 is actually part of a greater Psalm that encompasses both psalm 42 and 43.  It is a prayer of lament, but again not without hope.  This psalm also marks the beginning of the Elohistic psalms (which continue until psalm 83); these psalms tend to use the word Elohim for God instead of Yahweh; most are atrributed to the Korahites or David.

3 Responses to “Day 161: Psalms 38-42; Praying the Psalms”

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  3. […] Psalm 40:9-10 – I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.  I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.  I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly. […]

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