Best of Daily Reflections: The Tension of Faithful Prayer
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. . . .For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.
Psalm 22:2, 24
Today I want to base my reflection on two verses from Psalm 22. In the first verse, the psalmist laments God’s lack of response to his desperate prayers. Even though he has called out to God day and night, God has not answered. The second verse seems almost to contradict the first, affirming God’s attention to those who cry for help in their suffering.
How is it possible for both of these verses to appear in the same psalm? How can the psalmist accuse the Lord of ignoring his prayers, yet, moments later, celebrate God’s faithfulness in response to the cries of the needy?
Such superficially contradictory statements make sense when we realize that our faith in the living God is not some neat, tidy relationship that we can carefully manage. Every person who has walked with God for a while has experienced seasons of despair and seasons of exaltation. Sometimes these seasons overlap, even in a single prayer. In agony, we cry out for God’s help. Then we remember his goodness. Then our desperation returns as we wonder why God seems so distant. Then we are encouraged by the promise of his presence. And so it goes when we live in the tension of faithful prayer.
Psalm 22 invites us into a tumultuous, passionate, growing, intimate relationship with God. It gives us permission to cry out in anguish without holding back and to rejoice in the memory of God’s faithfulness—and, sometimes, to do both more or less at once.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Can you relate to the diverse expressions of prayer in Psalm 22? Do you ever worry that your prayers are too untidy? What helps you to pray with abandon?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the glorious untidiness of Psalm 22. In the psalmist’s wide-ranging dialogue with you, I see my own mix of certainty and uncertainty, faith and doubt. How grateful I am for the freedom this psalm gives as I come before you in prayer.
Help me, dear Lord, to bring my true self before you, without feeling as if I have to clean myself up to impress you. Give me confidence to live in the messiness of a genuine relationship with you.
And when it seems as if you are not even hearing my prayers, remind me of your faithfulness in the past. Help me to persevere in prayer even when my faith falters. By your grace, may I trust you more and more each day. Amen.