Prayer in Times of Trouble
What does prayer look like in times of trouble? Jesus taught on prayer. We know that prayer as the Lord’s prayer which walks us through an understanding of who we are praying to (our father in heaven), what our ultimate aim is to be, (your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven), what we need for this to happen, (give us our daily bread), a reflection of our weakness and our need (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors), and request for victory over the forces aligned against us (lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil), and our appeal to God’s ultimate power to accomplish all of these things for us (for yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever). It’s a model prayer; an outline of how our lives ought to be built. But it certainly doesn’t exhaust what prayer can look like.
To understand how we pray, perhaps the first part of the prayer is the most important, “our father.” That implies a specific kind of relationship. God is a good father desiring to give us good gifts and wanting the absolute best for us. Every earthly father is broken to some degree so we must be careful in projecting our earthly father onto God. Still, we intuitively know when our father is good and when he is bad because we have a sense of the ideal father. This is our heavenly father. He is the father in the parable of the Prodigal son, waiting to kill the fatted calf and celebrate his coming home. So, how can you talk to God? You talk to God the way you would talk to this kind of father. He is not depicted as some exalted ruler, distant and out of reach, requiring us to jump through all kinds of legal channels to get a message to him. He is waiting for you in the inner room. And he is eager for you to share the struggles that you face and the joys that you experience. I know I love to hear from my children about these things and I am a severely flawed father. How much more so is our heavenly father?
This is one of the great things about the psalms. They give us a model of how we can go to God through every kind of high and low. Some psalms are filled with invitations to shout to the Lord, and celebrate his faithfulness with instruments. Others go to the other extreme and express despair. This is one of those psalms. Why are these in the Bible? Because we are not always feeling in the mood to be happy. Proverbs 25:20 explains,
Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
Paul says in Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
If you are down, the psalms can be a comfort to you too. They weep with us. They invite the congregation to weep together.