Prepare to Listen. As you light your candle of hope, call on the Lord to hear your prayer.
Prayerfully Read Psalm 143
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;
answer me in your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgement with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued me,
crushing my life to the ground,
making me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old,
I think about all your deeds,
I meditate on the works of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
7 Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me, or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
8 Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Save me, O LORD, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life. In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.
12 In your steadfast love cut off my enemies,
and destroy all my adversaries, for I am your servant.
Reading this psalms has a ‘been-there-done-that’ feel to it. It has many similar words and phrases seen before in the lament psalms we’ve been reflecting on these past few days. One big difference is that the pray-er, instead of calling for vengeance against the enemy, and despite being reduced by his enemy to a state of helplessness and hopelessness (v4), expresses a hope-filled longing for God. He remembers the past, meditates and muses on God’s works (another common theme in laments). That gives him a hope-filled longing for God. He prays: ‘my soul thirsts for you like a parched land’ (see Ps 42 on Day 13).
The expression of longing for God is followed by ten rapid-fired urgent appeals to God (vv 7-10). The first is a very common lament, ‘Answer me quickly.’ They end with a double request to defeat the enemy. Most of them are common lament themes, except for three. Twice the pray-er asks God to teach him—‘Teach me the way I should go’ (v8) and ‘Teach me to do your will’ (v10). Once he asks for guidance, ‘Let your good spirit lead me’ (v10). The psalmist has the humility to be a servant under the tutelage of the Lord.
In different ways, covid-19 has affected all of us, some more severely than others. All of us have had our lives messed with. We’ve lost control and we don’t like it. Some react with anger and make armed protests; others buy into various conspiracy theories as they try to find someone or something to blame. The truth is, we don’t like to feel out of control. Not all of us fear going down into the Pit, as the psalmists often do (see v 7), and thus our laments are a little different. What is the same for all us is the need to pray, with this psalmist for teaching and guidance. As we continue living with limitations and restrictions, as we slowly seek ways to come out into the world again, we need guidance and the humility to seek and accept it. The psalm begins and ends with the pray-er claiming, ‘I am your servant’ (vv 2 & 12). Servants give up control and let another, in this case, the Lord, lead them.
As the pandemic extends into months, the theories and solutions about it abound, what’s your chief concern and prayer? Humble yourself, and begin with the words: I am your servant.
Respond to Jesus
Lord, I am your servant and I need you to teach and guide me so that I live in a way that reflects to the world your righteousness and faithfulness, and also your compassion and justice. Amen.