Introduction[1]

For a while, life seems fine. We rejoice in God’s blessings, seeing that He is active and present with us. God gives us a taste of what things are supposed to be like. And then that season ends. Things are changing, and we do not like it. The fallen, broken world is much more obvious to us than God’s blessings. It is a painful time filled with confusion and even anger. We fear that this is not just a season but the way things will be from now on. But it is a season. God takes us out of the pain and confusion to a new place. We discover His love, grace, and mercy in ways we never knew before. God makes new what once was broken.

The Psalms can be divided into three types, which reflect the three seasons God takes us through in life. In Psalms of Orientation we hear the joy and delight of living in God’s creation. God’s blessings are obvious. Psalms of Orientation express gratitude for the reliability of God, the wonder of His creation, and the beauty of God’s law.

Psalms of Disorientation reflect the encroachment of a fallen world into God’s creation. Life has seasons of anguish, pain, suffering, and death. Psalms of Disorientation reflect on a life that seems out of control. Virtually the entire world is living in a season of disorientation due to Covid-19. These psalms are raw and honest. They are God’s words for us to say back to Him when we are in a time like today.

Psalms of New Orientation are Psalms of renewal. God gives new gifts, a new coherence when we thought there was only chaos. God intrudes into fallen creation to make all things new. Light replaces darkness, and the psalms praise God for His grace and goodness.

The 40 Days of Prayer will take us through Psalms of Orientation in weeks one and two, Disorientation in weeks three and four, and New Orientation in weeks five and six. They will remind us of the goodness of God we experience when things go well. They will encourage us with words from God as life seems chaotic. They will give us hope in the work of God as He makes all things new.

Sunday Meditations

Our busy lives make it hard to be quiet and still. I will encourage you to take time each Sunday to be quiet before the Lord. Sundays will be an exercise of listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you through the Psalm. You will pray for openness to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you, read the Psalm, then pay attention to where the Holy Spirit takes you. This might be a little different from how you have prayed in the past, because you are not asking for anything. But it is a very common way to pray and has been for centuries.

 

[1] Taken from Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms.

Week 3 – Psalm of Disorienation – Personal Lament

Sometimes disorientation comes, as in Psalm 137, through no fault of either Yahweh or Israel, but through the action of other human agents. But that does not alter the main dynamic of these prayers. Even when disorientation is caused by an enemy, the appeal is still to Yahweh. The appeal is not to the enemy that the enemy should desist, for that is a hopeless plea. The appeal is that Yahweh should intervene to right the situation and to punish the destabilizer. Sometimes Yahweh is blamed, and sometimes not. But when Yahweh is not blamed, he is nonetheless regarded as the only one who can intervene in a decisive and helpful way.

Walter Brueggemann. Spirituality of the Psalms (Facets) (Kindle Locations 431-435). Kindle Edition.  

Introduction to Psalm 42-43

Psalm 42–43 (ESV)

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

3My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation

6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

9I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

2For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

3Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

 

Monday, July 27 – Longing for Communion with God

Read Psalms 42-43.

Psalm 42:1 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible, but it is often taken out of context. The psalmist longs for the Lord but does not feel near the Lord. Verses 1 and 2 describe someone who is spiritually dying of thirst. The last line of verse 2 asks when the psalmist will feel near to God again. I have heard similar complaints often over the past few months from people who feel spiritually parched and distant from the Lord.

Are you feeling distant from God? If not, have you felt that way recently? Do you know others who are feeling spiritually parched?

Use verses 1 and 2 to cry out to the Lord for new connection with Him. Tell Him how you are feeling distant. If you are not feeling distant right now, go before the Lord on behalf of someone else.

    Tuesday, July 28 – Taunted by Enemies

    Read Psalms 42-43.

    Verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 42 are a contrast between present and past. Verse 3 describes his present situation. Unbelievers taunt him, questioning where God is in the psalmist’s distress. This question hits the psalmist so hard that his sorrow (tears) are his only sustenance.

    Verse 4 turns to the past. The Psalmist remembers joining with other believers in joyous worship. The memories of worship drown out the taunts of the enemies.

    What is causing you to question God’s presence: people you know, media you are taking in, Satan’s voice in your ear? What memories of nearness to God encourage you?

    Tell God about the depth of your distress. Tell Him what influences are making your distress worse. Share with God fond memories you have of being near Him. Like verse 5, end your prayer by expressing confidence that you will worship God again.

    Wednesday, July 29 – Returning to Sorrow

    Read Psalms 42-43.

    After the hope of verse 5, the psalmist returns to his distress. His soul is cast down. This causes the psalmist to “remember” the Lord. Remembering in the Bible usually includes acting on what is remembered. In this case, the psalmist acts by praying earnestly. Verse 6 ends by describing the psalmist in remote places, away from the center of God’s people. “Deep” refers to deep waters, a place of chaos and death. The psalmist feels far away from God and His people, surrounded by dangers that continue to overwhelm him.

    What image or picture would you use to describe how you feel right now? In your prayer time, share this image with the Lord. Tell Him why this image captures how you feel.

    Thursday, July 30 – Confidence in God

    Read Psalms 42-43.

    Verse 8 of Psalm 42 is a major turning point. The psalmist forcefully asserts his faith. God’s unfailing love is always with him. He prays confidently to the Lord. Verses 9 and 10 are the content of the prayer. It is an honest reflection of the psalmist’s situation and his feelings about it. Notice that the prayer begins with calling God his “rock.” It starts with confidence in God’s strength, security, and safety. But then notice the honesty. He questions why God forgot him – a contrast to the psalmist remembering God. God does not literally forget, but the psalmist tells God that He is acting like it. The psalmist tells God in verse 10 that he is crushed by the spiritual attacks of his enemies.

    This is real life. We pray and express confidence and then find our soul cast down again. We live with a constant battle between faith and the struggle with a fallen world.

    In your prayer time, share your confidence in God’s love, strength, security, and safety. Thank Him that He is with you at all times, even when you do not feel it. Also express that you continue to struggle. Ask for His strength to more and more overpower that struggle. End with praying verse 11 in your own words.

    Friday, July 31 – The Request for Deliverance

    Read Psalms 42-43. 

    Verses 1-3 of Psalm 43 make specific requests for God to act. The psalmist wants God to vindicate him in front of his enemies. The psalmist is asking for God to intervene in such a way that it shows that he was in the right all along. The psalmist wants God to vindicate him by delivering him from the deceitful and unjust. Verse 2 returns to the lament that it appears that God has abandoned him. This heightens the urgency of the prayer. Verse 3 is a request for God to do more than deliver the psalmist from danger. The psalmist wants to return to nearness with God, so he asks God to lead him there. 

    What do you want God to do in your situation? Be specific. Be sure to include that you want to return to the nearness to God you felt in the past.

    Saturday, August 1 – The Promise of Praise

    Read Psalms 42-43.

    Psalms 42 and 43 end with the promise to praise God. This is an expression of faith because it assumes God’s deliverance. It is also a promise to give God credit for the deliverance. Do not miss that verse 4 ends by affirming that God is his God. The psalmist trusts his personal relationship with God, even when he does not feel close.

    Spend time expressing confidence in God’s deliverance. Tell Him how you will glorify Him once He delivers you. End by telling God you trust He is near.

    Sunday, August 2 – Meditation

    Pray for openness to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

    Read Psalms 42-43. 

    The questions below are designed to help you pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is using these Psalms in your life. These are not meant to be study questions as much as they are meant to help you recognize what the Holy Spirit is doing. 

    • What comes to your mind as you read these Psalms?
    • What emotions stir up inside you?
    • How are these Psalms enlarging your view of God?
    • How are these Psalms convicting you? Challenging you?