Prepare to Listen. Light a candle of hope and take a moment to be aware of your thoughts and feelings at this moment. Name them before God and then read today’s lament.
Prayerfully Read Psalm 102:1-12 (if you have time, read the whole psalm today not just these 12 verses)
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me on the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily on the day when I call.
3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass; I am too wasted to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my skin.
6 I am like an owl of the wilderness, like a little owl of the waste places.
7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger; for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned for ever; your name endures to all generations.
By now, we’re used to the opening requests—hear my prayer; let my cry come to you; don’t hide your face; incline your ear. Is this the ‘same old same old’ that we should take with a pinch of salt? No! This is an old prayer of petition that saints through the ages offer, often. It’s a prayer that many today are making as they cry to God during this pandemic. If the request doesn’t echo your present need, pray it in solidarity with those who are crying these words to God.
I’ll confess that Psalm 102 has been one of my favorite personal laments—for all the wrong reasons! I love that the pray-er is so pathetically whiny (as I am too) as he complains about his bones clinging to his skin; of feeling like a lonely bird on the housetop; of eating ashes like bread; mingling tears with his drink; thinking God had lifted him up and thrown him aside (vv 6-10). It is pathetic, but it’s also honest realism. I like that the pray-er was confident enough in his relationship with God he could moan and whine and know God would not cast him out. But we, as his fellow believer, might, or simply be embarrassed with his raw, whiny honesty.
I once used these verses as a prayer before my sermon. I didn’t tell the audience that I was reading a psalm. I simply recited these words as if they were my own prayer, watching my audience as I did so. I could see on many faces looks of horror. Someone even admitted to me that he was shocked at such personal and pathetic words prayed in public. If we can’t pray these words in the safety of our community, how can we ever survive depressing circumstances?
The pray-er of psalm 102 didn’t mutter these whiny words in private. It was prayed in and with his faith community, who could hold him in his deep distress. All psalms are meant to be prayed together with the community where we can find support and containment as we pour out our needs and feelings, even when it’s a whiny complaint: ‘I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.’
What did you think as you read this psalm today? Have you ever felt like this psalmist?
Respond to Jesus
You, O LORD, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations. I know this Lord, but then I wonder why you don’t act to change my circumstances, why covid-19’s fallout gets worse instead of better. So I make my complaint to you today. Amen.