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Thursday, April 25, 2013

How to Pray in the Midst of Crises

by David Sanford

Earlier this week a godly Christian friend of mine remarked, “Is it just me or is the world starting to spin out of control? It seems like all we’re doing is going from one major crisis to the next to the next. How are we supposed to catch our breath anymore?”

How should we respond in the midst of crises? The short answer, no surprise, is: By praying. More than any other writings, the ancient Hebrew and Christian hymn book, the Psalms, show us how.
Beginning with Psalm 3, and over and over again until Psalm 149, we find the psalmist actively and fervently praying to the Lord in various dire circumstances.

            “How many are my foes!”
            “Give me relief from my distress.”
            “Listen to my cry for help.”
            “Away from me, all you who do evil.”
            “Save and deliver me from all who pursue me.”

In seven out of every ten psalms, the writer is either crying out to the Lord for physical salvation, thanking God for sparing his life, reminding himself of the differing fates of the righteous and evildoers, or renewing his allegiance to God and His Word in the face of rampant wickedness.

If the psalms teach us anything, it’s how to turn to God in times of trouble and distress.  Here’s a brief synopsis with specific examples from various psalms.

            1.  Call out to the Lord...
            “Hear my cry, O God;
            listen to my prayer”
            (Psalm 61:1).

            2.  ...and ask for help!
            “Hasten, O God, to save me;
            O Lord, come quickly to help me”
            (Psalm 70:1).

            3.  Tell God about your troubles...
            “We are objects of reproach to our neighbors,
            of scorn and derision to those around us”
            (Psalm 79:4).

            4.  ...and admit if you feel abandoned or forsaken.
            “How long, O Lord?  Will you hide yourself forever?
            How long will your wrath burn like fire?
            Remember how fleeting is my life.
            For what futility you have created all men!”
            (Psalm 89:46-47).

            5.  Describe what you want God to do...
            “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
            for as many years as we have seen trouble”
            (Psalm 90:15).

            6.  ...and explain why He should act on your behalf.
            “Let this be written for a future generation,
            that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
            `The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
            from heaven he viewed the earth,
            to hear the groans of the prisoners
            and release those condemned to death’”
            (Psalm 102:18-20).

            7.  Give a candid appraisal of your enemy...
            “With words of hatred they surround me;
            they attack me without cause”
            (Psalm 109:3).

            8.  ...and ask God to put that foe in his place.
            “Appoint an evil man to oppose him;
            let an accuser stand at his right hand.
            When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
            and may his prayers condemn him”
            (Psalm 109:6-7).

            9.  Honestly evaluate your guilt or innocence...
            “I have chosen the way of truth;
            I have set my heart on your laws.
            I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord;
            do not let me be put to shame”
            (Psalm 119:30-31).

            10.  ...and confess any known sins.
            “I have strayed like a lost sheep.
            Seek your servant,
            for I have not forgotten your commands”
            (Psalm 119:176).

            11.  Affirm your implicit trust in the Lord...
            “I lift up my eyes to the hills—
            where does my help come from?
            My help comes from the Lord,
            the Maker of heaven and earth”
            (Psalm 121:1-2).

            12.  ...and then praise God for His deliverance.
            “Praise be to the Lord,
            who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
            We have escaped like a bird
            out of the fowler’s snare;
            the snare has been broken,
            and we have escaped.
            Our help is in the name of the Lord,
            the Maker of heaven and earth”
            (Psalm 124:6-8).

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