November 15, 2015 • Life for Leaders
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.”
Today, I’d like to base this devotion on two verses from Psalm 22. In the first verse (22:2), 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 (22:24) 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 apparently 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 exultation. 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 TO CONSIDER:
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?
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.
An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling. It is used with permission under a Creative Commons license.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.