Week of April 25

Take Everything to God in Prayer

Read: 1 Samuel 28-29; Psalm 109; Matthew 11
Be not silent, O God of my praise!”
Psalm 109:1, ESV


“I do not like the tone in your voice,” has helped generations of children to be molded in appropriate ways to express their upset. I have benefited from similar words at times when I was a youngster. Sadly, as we grow up, we often fail to express our upset to the Lord. We have come to believe that it is inappropriate. Sometimes, the reason for our reluctance is our poor awareness of God’s desire to hear our cries.

David opens Psalm 109 with a brief statement of praise to God, but then unleashes his upset on those who mean to do him evil. We should not be horrified by his words or posture because he was indeed respecting God’s sovereignty and holiness. Even so, we are reminded that a “fool gives full vent to his anger,” so we are curious how this prayer can be worshipful and still honor the Lord (Proverbs 29:11). Most of us are familiar with rants, especially in the social media age; however, I am not so sure that David is spewing anger in the same manner. Scholars term this hymn as being imprecatory, meaning that he uses words and phrases out of anger. A careful examination of the psalm will yield insight into deeper theological meanings that will help us to channel our own upsets into a proper voice.

Let's See What the Bible Says

“What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer”
We sing the words found in the subtitle, but we often fail to consider the privilege of carrying everything to God in prayer. David shows no hesitancy because he begins by stating his 3-fold accusation about his enemies: wicked, deceitful, and lying (109:2). It is not so much that he hates these people, but that they are so cruel. They are untrustworthy in their actions (v. 2) because they are also wicked in heart (vv. 3-5). He has acted in love (v. 4-5), but they have reciprocated with hatred (vv. 3, 5). They have attacked him as an enemy and leveled false accusations. He is being attacked without cause, so he is suffering injustice.

David escapes the temptation to sinful anger by focusing his gaze on the deeper theological implications of such behavior. We do well to notice that he looks through their hate to see the deeper spiritual implications. He knows that this type of behavior upsets God’s creation order and exchanges evil for good, so he cries out to God to judge the universe. If we miss this key understanding, then we will become misdirected in our prayers. There is more!
“Have we trials and temptations, Is there trouble everywhere?”
David uses his deep grasp of righteousness, with laser-like precision, to call down some serious judgment on the guilty (vv. 6-8). He prays that there will be someone on earth that is not as evil who will judge them. Even though earthly judges are often corrupt, he hopes that justice will prevail, and that God’s righteousness will be vindicated. He next turns his focus to their families (vv. 9-10, 12-13) and prays that the homes of these wicked people will lack support and comfort. David knew that the guilt of the father affected the whole family, and it was a disgrace to the Lord. He then turns his attention to their possessions (v. 11). He asks that the guilty man’s family may never enjoy the fruits of his labor. He hopes that the family would be reduced to dependency and indebtedness! He even requests that no mercy be shown to them (vv. 12-13). Such a raw public expression is quite foreign to us today, but this was not at all unusual in David’s day. He truly wanted God’s word about the profligate to come true (Numbers 9:13; 15:30; 19:13, 20; EBC). These words undoubtedly make us squirm a bit, but David is calling on God to root out systemic evil. Rather than lose hope and to consider all of life as being meaningless, he trusts God to judge wicked people and root out evil systems.
“We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer”
Finally, he rounds off his prayer with a return to their culpability (vv. 14-15). He wants God to be just by remembering the guilt of the entire family—forever. The covenant required a person to practice kindness, but this person(s) hated, cursed, oppressed, and harassed the poor and needy (vv. 16-20). David is speaking mainly about how he was treated (v. 22)!

One cannot help but recall all the wanderings that he endured, even as God’s anointed, and how many times people hurled abuse and accused him of being worthless (cf. Doeg and Nabal in 1 Samuel). Forgiveness, indeed, is possible for the repentant sinner (see 51:1; EBC), but the hardened sinner makes himself or herself beyond salvation. He leaves no stone unturned, and basically asks for God to command a blitzkrieg upon everything these people stand for and hold dear. Let’s make application to our lives.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

“O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we often bear”
I have used portions of verses from the famous hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as subtitles throughout this devotional. Allow me to provide some background to its use. I carefully select each week the passages that are used in the daily devotionals. Discipleship is the overarching theme, so I seek to incorporate Old and New Testament passages, as well as familiar and unfamiliar ones, so that we will all become well-rounded Christ-followers. I read and ask the Lord to speak to my heart before I make the daily choices. It happened on the day that I wrote this devotional that I watched a worship service where this familiar hymn was used in a church service that I watched online. I have been researching and writing in other areas on systemic racism. Additionally, there have been regular news stories over the last weeks that have heightened my awareness of the pervasive wickedness in our world, and I have found my frustration level growing. Psalm 109 reminded me that I had not expressed these raw emotions in worship!

Here are some thoughts for our spiritual growth. Psalm 109 and hymns like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” remind us that we have recourse when we are treated hurtfully. We can seek to move the Lord on three core grounds: his nature, our need, and a reminder about the wicked. We may take it fully—anger and all—to the good Lord in prayer and worship (109:21-24). Going to God is a proper response to our upset. C. S. Lewis reminds us in Mere Christianity, “Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again.”

Secondly, we can state emphatically that, “I” am haunted by my enemy (v. 25, 26-29). David has full confidence that God will change the curse of his enemies into a blessing for God’s people (v. 28; 1 Corinthians 4:12). He has full confidence that he will stand, again, among the throngs of worshipers to give praise to God (v.30; cf. 22:22). Can you sense the peace that will flood your soul when you pray and praise the Lord? Bare your soul to God when you pray. He can handle it and will do something about it.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Psalm 109 places the challenge before us to take our burdens, all of them, to the Lord in prayerful worship. Take time to write down the “ugly upset” that has been roiling inside your life, then reshape it in such a way that you may offer it as a prayer for God’s response. Then, trust him to take matters into his hands and act.

2. For families: Like the challenge for adults above, children can be taught to take their hurts and upsets to the Lord as well. Help your children, when they are angry or lashing out, to calm themselves. Let them be isolated, if need be, until they can come to talk about what has upset them. When they can talk, help them to vocalize what has caused them to react the way they have in anger. Ask them to draw a picture of the event, or share their heart with you in words.

Then ask them to tell God what has happened. As you pray together, encourage your child to ask God to make this right, and change the heart of the one who has hurt them. Praise God together for his justice and goodness, and thank him for handling this situation. Then watch to see what God will do.

[Special note: if your child has been hurt by a bully, an older child at school or play, or an adult, call your pastor to get help for him or her, since your God-given responsibility as a parent is to protect your child, if possible, from harm.]

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock