Saturday, 27 September 2014
Psalm 22: His cry and our prayers
Our church is on a journey this year in praying. I find it is not just a community journey but a personal one. I don’t naturally pray. I naturally plan, problem solve, worry, pressure, manipulate, and strive. When all else fails, I pray. God wants to teach me, us, that praying is not a last resort, but a first one.
I’m encouraged to see progress both in our church family and in my own life. We are starting to take God at his word. This past week I have been preparing for a trip back east. After finding subs for my classes at the Y, I started to hear murmurs of discontent from my clients. This alarmed me. Last time I was out of town our Pilates program declined and has not fully recovered. We can’t afford to have that happen again. I began to anticipate the worst and move ahead into damage control.
Right away the Lord stopped me. The Father knows what you need…ask and you shall receive…be anxious for nothing…let your requests be made known unto God. I began to pray very specifically. Father, please sustain this program while I am away. I pray there would be no cancellations. I pray the sub will take good care of everyone. I pray the program would regain the ground that is lost. You have used this for the gospel, continue to do as long as you want. He calmed my heart immediately. He began to answer within the day.
One step closer to praying like a son, through the Son. The sustained dependence of Jesus expressed in prayer was matched by his confidence that the Father 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.
Loud cries from the cross. Then I remember Psalm 22 and the cry of abandonment from the cross. He 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.
I can relate to this Savior. 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.
Not just comfort but counsel. Now that thought is comforting to a point. But I need more than comfort. I need help to keep asking. Psalm 22 has help to offer, especially if we push past the opening verses. The whole Psalm relates to our Savior, and to us. Here are a few thoughts:
- 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 play games. Both my circumstances and my internal 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, because the Resurrection was now present. 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. The point of Jesus’ abandonment, suffering, and death was to purchase resurrection for us all. In the midst of his suffering for our sins, he anticipated it.
Not ashamed. 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 praising God in the midst of the congregation, like we do when we have received an answer to prayer. Our public praise to him for deliverance is glorious and absolutely appropriate. But Jesus went beyond that.
Two of the four gospel accounts show us what he was eager to do. The angels told the women to, “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 answers 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, sisters. Because he was forsaken, you will not be. His death brought resurrection. Your prayers may be unanswered right now, but take heart, it’s only a matter of time. All will be well.