A PRAYER OF THE AFFLICTED (PSALM 102)
When I was reading through the Psalms preparing a series of my favorite psalms for the Putonghua worship last year, I came across two psalms with the word ¡¡±prayer¡ÆØ headlining the chapter caught my attention because my wife was a prayer warrior, so I hope to catch up, Psalms 90 and 102. The former, A Prayer of Moses, I preached here a few months ago (Jan 2, 2016). The second one appealed to me because of my wife¡¦s bout with cancer. As you know she departed to be with the Lord on May 22, 2016. I should not have taken up the date today because it is too early emotionally for me to preach on such a sensitive psalm, but this was thought up months in advance. Also today is a special date because remarkably it is our anniversary and the Psalm 102.
As early as the fifth or sixth century Psalm 102 was named one of the seven penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession in the Bible, along with Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. Unlike other penitential psalms this psalm is not attributed to individuals or titled a psalm, but highlighted as a prayer, of which there are only five in the Bible (Ps 17, 86, 142, 90, 102 ) , the last three by David. The speculation of authorship includes Nehemiah.
Ps 102:1 begins with a headline: A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord (KJV), or
A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord (NASB).
Have you ever been weak, worried, weary, wounded, wronged and worthless? Who or what do you turn to? How do we deal with pain, suffering, grief, loss, and sadness, things I deal with for more than two months now? Why is it a good idea to bring it to God and even share it to others rather than bottle up your feelings?
Admit your Failings and Ask for Forbearance
A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.
1 Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. 3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. (Psalm 102:1-11)
Today (Juy 31, 2016) is our wedding anniversary, as well as a turning point in memorizing the Bible for me. This morning I decided to recite a verse from the Psalms per day, and started with Psalm 1:1, ¡¡±Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.¡ÆØ The purpose is not to forget my grief but to focus on God.
KJVFirst, begin with prayer. The prayer side of the Psalms is often overlooked. Not every psalm gets to be a poem, a psalm and a prayer technically. The word ¡¡±prayer¡ÆØ occurs 32 times in Psalms, more than any book in the Bible - nine times as the title or in the first verse, and the noun ¡¡±prayer¡ÆØ occurs more times in this psalm than any other (vv 1 twice, 17 twice - KJV).
Who is the afflicted person in the title? An afflicted person is translated as one who is poor (Ex 22:25) and lowly (Zech 9:9) in KJV. The reason for the depressed state in the introduction is because his or her ¡¡±weakened¡ÆØ condition. Half of the 16 times the word ¡¡±weak¡ÆØ from the Bible is found in the Psalms and it is translated as hideth (Job 23:9), overwhelmed (Ps 61:2), fainted (Ps 107:5), fail (Isa 57:16) and swoon (Lam 2:11). Another word for the verb ¡¡±pour out¡ÆØ in the title is shed (Gen 9:6), gush out (1 Kings 18:28), cast (2 Kings 19:32) and slip (Ps 73:2), and for the headlined ¡¡±lament¡ÆØ is complaint (1 Sam 1:16), talking (1 Kings 18:27), communication (2 Kings 9:11), prayer (Ps 64:1), meditation (Ps 104:34) and babbling (Prov 23:29). The verb pour pout implies that our discontent must be shared and not stored, surrendered and not saved, shed and not stuck, stopped or silenced.