That phone call
It was my sophomore year in college when I received “that phone call” nobody wants to get. I can remember walking across the courtyard between classes when my phone rang. “Jeremiah, I just had a heart attack.” Life halted quickly to a stop. I looked up- people appeared as if they were walking in slow motion. Noise faded. People’s lips were moving and no sound. My dad had a heart attack. Would he be OK?
Panic rushed over me. My heart pounded. Sweat beads formed on my forehead and quickly disappeared as the wind whipped over me. “Are you going to be OK, dad?” I felt a headache sweep through my body. Soon, I found myself on the floor of the campus chapel pleading with God, “Lord, please be with the doctors. Help my dad to heal.”
We all have been there, or we all will be there at some point in life. That phone call will come. It will catch us by surprise. We will not be prepared.
When it comes, how should we respond?
In Psalm 79:1-5, the psalmist laments over the destruction of Jerusalem. While it is difficult to know exactly who caused the chaos, it is clear that there was utter ruin and devastation. The psalmist laments that Israel suffered physical pain– corpses literally lined the streets. The city was in ruin. Israel suffered emotional pain– the utter humiliation that there was nobody to bury the dead. There was spiritual pain– God’s felt presence had disappeared.
When the world of the psalmist had screeched to a halt, when everything seemed like slow motion, when lips were moving and it seemed like there was piercing silence, Asaph turned to God and he prayed (vv. 1, 6-13)!
Asaph prayed for justice (vv. 6-7, 10, 12) because Israel’s enemies scoffed at God’s authority and destroyed God’s property. Asaph prayed for mercy (vv. 8-9) because God’s reputation was at stake and Israel needed to be forgiven and delivered from the consequences of her sin. Asaph prayed for freedom (v. 11) because Israel suffered from bondage to her enemies. Asaph also promised to praise God (v. 13) because of God’s wonderful acts.
When you and I are in trouble
The last time I researched, I found out that 1 out of every 1 persons die. Isn’t that amazing? I don’t think that statistic will take you by surprise. So, to suggest that this world is filled with trouble is not pessimistic but realistic. I love life, yet it is reality. You and I will be sideswiped in life by troubling news. Jesus said that in this world we will have troubles, but that in him we can have peace (John 16:33).
In Christ we can have peace
Some get repulsed by prayers like Asaph’s. How can anyone pray for doom upon another? That is not the point of Asaph’s prayer. Israel was a Covenant people of God. God did not create the world to be under the curse of sin. He did not create us for eternal suffering. Suffering is the consequence of our sin. It is something we are expected to endure in this life. It is what happens when this world is in rebellion against his authority. We suffer, but in Christ we can have peace because he came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
So, if we look again back to Psalm 79, what we can see is the prayer of a faithful servant of God. The psalmist’s response to trouble was turning to God and ultimately praying for God’s Kingdom to come! The psalmist was asking God to respond against rebellion, to forgive Israel for her sins, and to set Israel free from bondage. Why? For the sake of God’s reputation. And the psalmist promises to praise God. Sound familiar?
The Lord’s Prayer
6:9 So pray this way:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored,
6:10 may your kingdom come,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
6:11 Give us today our daily bread,
6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven ourdebtors.
6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
6:15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins (NET Bible).
When You Pray
I found myself kneeling over that hard oak pew. Tears streaming down my face. “God, for your glory, heal my dad. Give me the grace to make it through this. Give my dad strength. I will praise you.” Everything turned out OK. Dad got his stent. He recovered fine.
Life does not always turn out that way, but it does not change the way we should pray.
A Model, not a formula
Passages like Psalm 79 and Matthew 6 are not formulas that promise relief of our pain. Rather, they are models that demonstrate submission to God. They are petitions to the Sovereign King whose authority on this world has been usurped by Satan and sin. These prayers are really petitions for God to act, rightfully restoring His Kingdom back under his rule.
When we face trouble, we should turn to God. Pray to him. We should express how we feel. Our suffering is the consequence of living in a world subjected to sin and judgment. Pray for the sake of God’s name that he would intervene.
Pray for justice. Petition God to act against rebellion and sin. Pray for mercy. Plead for God to forgive you of your sins. Ask for freedom. Beg God for deliverance from physical, emotional and spiritual bondage. Praise God for what he will do. Give God the glory because he promises that one day He indeed will act!
This world continues to be subjected to the bondage of the curse of sin.