Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Our pastor is leading a study on prayer, and this past Sunday he used Psalm 145 as a text, emphasizing the two reason why we pray: God is worthy, and we are needy.  In other words, praise and worship is as integral within prayer as the requests we bring.  During discussions at our small group Sunday evening, one person mentioned in passing that there are times of agony rather than worship.  Later, I thought of a piece by Chad Bird earlier in the week: I Don’t Know How to Pray.  There are times when we do not have the words.  When those times come, there are not even enough words for the request much less any worship.  Psalmists occasionally found themselves in such situations.  Consider Psalm 88.  The closest bit of worship that might be found is in the opening line: O Lᴏʀᴅ, God of my salvation.  That’s it.  From there, Heman the Ezrahite pours out his heart in sorrow and anguish, pleading for the Lord to intervene.  There is no explicit praise but a silent acknowledgment of who God is and what He has promised, so the worship is implied.*  Your agony poured out to God is a personal act of worship for the same reason.  You are convinced by Scripture that God is faithful to His word and will intercede for our good.

In a similar vein, if you have spend enough time in the Psalms, you will notice a great deal of whining.  Most complain about a situation wherein the psalmist that God needs to handle, but interwoven within them is an acknowledgment of God’s person and work.  Another psalm is Psalm 83 in which the Asaph asks God to squash His enemies like a bug.  To what end?
Fill their faces with shame,
    that they may seek your name, O Lᴏʀᴅ.
Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
    let them perish in disgrace,
that they may know that you alone,
    whose name is the Lᴏʀᴅ,
    are the Most High over all the earth.  (Ps 83:16-18)
The point of the psalm is that the nations might honor and praise the Lord.  This is not exactly your typical outreach program, but again the end is the worship of the one true God.

Should there be regular times when we pour out praise to the Lord in prayer?  Absolutely, the Lord is honored and our minds are correctly adjusted when we do, but sometimes the most effective prayers—those garnering an immediate response—are closer to “Lord, do something” or Peter’s cry “Lord, save me!”

*  This is one reason why psalms are worthy for use in Christian worship.


Stephen Pohl said...


I thinks Romans 8:26 and its context also addresses this.

"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;"

Steve Bricker said...

Indeed it does. I did not refer to that passage because Chad Bird used it in the linked post. That aside, what a marvelous thought that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, prays for us.