Friday, 19 September 2014
Psalm 22 Meditation: His Prayers and Mine
What do you do first when you’re in trouble? Pray? I don’t.
I naturally plan, problem solve, worry, pressure, manipulate, and strive. When all else fails, I pray. Last resort praying. It’s like I’m allergic to prayer. I think I need an anti-histamine.
Psalm 22 is a treatment for all of us, an antidote to the histamine of self-reliance. A tonic for the lethargy of despair. In it we get to see the Son take the Father’s invitation to prayer so seriously that he calls on him from the cross.
Jesus prayed all the time. He trusted his Father completely, depended on him constantly, and was confident that he heard. Always. As he said at the tomb of Lazarus:
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me. John 11:41-42
I want to trust the Father like that. I want to know that he always hears me. The Son wants you and me to pray like a son, so he brings us close to hear his most desperate cry.
Loud Cries From The Cross
The first verse of Psalm 22 has been called “the cry of dereliction.” We can see why. Jesus doesn’t pray, “Father,” but “My God, my God!” He doesn’t say, “Thank you that you heard me,” but “Why have you forsaken me?” He doesn’t say, “I know that you always hear me,” but “Why are you so far from saving me?” The strength of his cry comes from the closeness of the relationship.
This is a Savior I can relate to. He understands how I feel when I risk asking and don’t receive answers. He knows what it’s like to cry by day and by night, but find no rest. He experienced the desolation of unanswered prayer.
That thought is comforting to a point. But I need more than comfort. I need help to keep asking. Psalm 22 has just such help to offer, especially if we push past the opening verses. The whole Psalm relates to our Savior, and to us.
Not Just Comfort But Counsel
When Jesus uses this Psalm to express his anguish from the cross, he opens a door for us to enter as we face our worst moments. He shows us that:
- Crying to God in your anguish is an expression of faith.
- Arguing with God–asking “why”, saying “but”–shows that you take his promises seriously.
- Arguing with yourself–from past answers to community prayers–is a good way to stir your faith.
- Arguing with yourself–from the history of God’s personal relationship with you–is a good way to combat the sense that you are the problem (but I am a worm), and to fight the lies from others that you’re a fool to trust God.
- Arguing with yourself helps you to persevere in prayer. Ceasing to pray is a bigger problem than waiting for the answer.
- Renewed prayer digs into specifics. This is no time to pretend. Both my terrible circumstances and my hopeless response are fodder for my prayers.
- Renewed prayer renounces not just false saviors, but despair. “O you my help, come quickly to my aid,” is a cry of faith, not despair.
- Renewed prayer believes that it is never too late. Death is not the end, because God is the God of resurrection. Nothing is impossible with him.
The final point connects Psalm 22 back to John 11. Jesus wanted Martha to understand that death was not the end, because Life was standing before her. He wanted to push her past the anemic faith that “resurrection someday” is her only comfort. He wanted her to see that The Resurrection was standing in front of her.
This is the confidence that Jesus wanted Martha to have beside the four day old tomb of her brother. Nothing is beyond hope. And this is the confidence Jesus knew even on the cross. Death is not the end.
Psalm 22 doesn’t detail the final breath of Jesus, his entombment, or his resurrection. It jumps straight to the events that follow. Our resurrected Savior was eager to do one thing, declare God’s name to his brothers. This was more than just giving a testimony in church, like we do when we have received an answer to prayer. Our public praise to him for deliverance is a good thing. But Jesus went beyond that.
Two of the four gospel accounts show us what he was eager to do. The angels told the women, “Go tell his disciples.” Jesus intercepted them and said, “Go tell my brothers.” The disciples, cowering in the upper room, terrified of the Romans must have felt so ashamed at how they had let Jesus down. They must have hated their unbelief. Jesus didn’t just announce his victory, he answered their shame. Hebrews 2:11 makes this even more explicit, That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.
Brothers. Even when their faith is weak.
Calling them brothers not only addresses their shame, but announces God’s new name to them. John tells us the content of this announcement, …go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Do you see how this flows from this Psalm and from the Cross? “My God, my God” did not forsake him, but resurrected him. “My God” showed himself to be “My Father” to the Son. “My God” shows himself to be “your God” and “your Father” through the resurrection. That is the name Jesus is proclaiming to them. And that is the name he proclaims to us today, this side of the empty tomb.
This is good news. Because he was forsaken, you and I will not be. His death brought resurrection. Our prayers may be unanswered right now, but take heart, it’s only a matter of time.
All will be well.