Praying When You Don’t Feel Like It

Psalm 102

Seems people have love-hate relationship with roller coasters, maybe even a love-love relationship: either love ’em or love to hate ’em!

“Roller coaster enthusiasts were quaking with anticipation Thursday morning (06/19/14) as Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, officially opened Goliath, a triple record-breaking coaster.

Brave souls who dare to try out the fastest, tallest, and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world can expect to plunge down 180 feet while rocketing through twists and turns at 72 miles per hour at a near vertical 85 degree angle.” ABC News

Most everyone who rides Goliath does so voluntarily, not so life’s roller coaster. White knuckle can come at bottom as well as at top. Some aspects of life should be steady, straight-line: our pursuit of Christ-likeness, for example. Experience & circumstances, though, have ups and downs.

“More than any other book in the Bible, Psalms reveals what a heartfelt, soul-starved, single-minded relationship with God looks like. They are journals of people who believe in a loving, gracious, faithful God in a world that keeps falling apart. …the psalms help me reconcile what I believe about life with what I actually encounter in life. …Psalm 102 reads like a catalog of pain scratched out by a hospital patient in a feverish state. Yet the following psalm is a majestic hymn of praise that includes not one note in the minor key…I have learned to appreciate Psalms simply because it does encompass both points of view, often adjoined with no calming transition.” Phillip Yancey, Christianity Today

Title of the psalm: “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” Starts out not really feeling like praying – overwhelmed by circumstances, just wants to curl up in fetal position, not uncurl till it’s over. Yet, knows there is no other source of help. Begins at the bottom, crying out to God and lamenting his circumstances. As soon as he looks up from himself in his pit, drawn up to God and the help God provides. Then goes through shorter valley, aware of his own fragility and short lifespan. Finishes on the peak of God’s greatness and eternality.

A. at the bottom v.1-11

cry to God (1-2)

this is my prayer, not someone else’s; maybe didn’t compose it but certainly owned it as his own personal experience and expression

strong implication that no one else was listening – pleads for God to pay attention, intending to actually help

don’t hide your face – provide real comfort and assistance

story about a young man whose wife had died, leaving him with a small son. Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do. As he lay there in the darkness — grief-stricken and heartbroken, the little boy broke the stillness from his little bed with a disturbing question, “Daddy, where is mommy?”

The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions like “Why isn’t she here?” and, “When is she coming back?” Finally the little boy said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now.” And in a little while he was quiet.

The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer: “O God, I don’t see how I can survive this. The future looks so miserable. But if your face is toward me, somehow I think I can make it.”

complaint to God (3-7)

severe physical infirmity – nothing to show for a day’s passing by (to-do list never gets shorter); burning up with fever; no life, no energy, no appetite, wasting away (skin and bones)

poor shape emotionally – loneliness so severe it is debilitating: no one interested in him, he’s not interested in ADL’s or anyone else

long days and endless nights – no sleep, no purpose, no will to continue without divine help and encouragement

cause of complaint (8-11)

surrounded by enemies – mock and taunt incessantly, no break from ridicule; “When the psalmist’s enemies call judgment down on others, they hold the psalmist up as a prime example of what they desire their enemies to become.” NET Notes

here’s ultimate source of affliction: God’s indignation and anger that has not been mitigated (lessened) by repentance

ashes of humiliation and tears of repentance so much a part of daily life it’s like part of daily diet

final stroke: abandonment by God – picked up and thrown away like street litter, treated as worthless or dispensable

all that is left, in psalmist’s view – wait out the last few days before death; can’t be much longer: shadows show it is evening, approaching sunset

B. at the top v.12-22

ummistakeable focus on Yahweh and his transcendant eternality – prepare for “whiplash” as perspective shifts from psalmist in his dire condition to God in his majesty

assurance of help (12-14)

God is unlike mankind who has limited ability, short duration, always changing in a changing world

God is unchanging, unlimited, eternal – his character and attributes in view first, then his works later

cannot stress how important v.11-12 are: what is it that brings psalmist out of depths of darkness and despair? meditating on God, not asking for stuff

begins with prayer for audience, next request in verse 24 – don’t let my life end now; meanwhile, look to God, meditate on who he is not what he does (that comes later!)

confidence in God’s help comes from knowing his character more than his ability – character directs exercise of power

God not only is unchanging, he is compassionate also – power without compassion is abusive, tyrannical

God is faithful – will keep his promise to act at the appointed time; we may not like God’s timing, can be sure it is right and best

God is just – if purpose of affliction is to bring about change / repentance, God will provide relief when people respond appropriately to his correction

results of help (15-17)

when God “helps”, he has two ends in view – one in regard to himself, the other to us

Q. 1. Who made you? A. God. Q. 2. What else did God make? A. God made all things. Q. 3. Why did God make you and all things? A. For his own glory.

Gen. 50:20 & Rom. 8:28“…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about…to save many people alive.”

God’s purpose in his help promotes his eternal glory and our eternal good; his purpose never limited solely to this age – it always includes the age to come

one further point: God’s purpose includes both saved and lost, now and in next life

God responds to prayer for help by displaying his glory, his splendor, his majesty

so that people from all walks of life, stations and nations will rightly fear and reverence him

should inspire terror of God’s majesty, desire for God’s pleasure in the lost; most importantly: right relationship

should inspire confidence, hope, gratitude in child(ren) of God: I am his child, he did hear my cry, I’m certain he will help, I know I have a future with him, boy am I thankful; and…btw…WOW! did you see what God did? did you see his greatness? his glory?

remembering his help (18-22)

God’s help now will encourage saints in future generations…just as his help in past encourages this generation

book of Judges prompts response on many levels: how could people be so foolish? wow, there were some despicable villains, some really cool action heroes then! they didn’t learn…time after time, same old cycle of stuff

Judg. 3:9​”When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer” – Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and others

don’t forget, be encouraged: God’s people turned from their sin, cried out to him for help and he answered them

C. second valley v.23-24

life is short, life is hard

there’s more to do for God but….doesn’t look like I’ll live long enough or have enough strength to accomplish it

temporarily distracted by New Age lie – look within you, you have all resources you need, may the Force be with you

D. final peak v.25-28

God is forever, in particular God the Son: see Heb. 1:10-12

“Ps. 102 extends an emphasis on the Son’s status, focusing on …his lordship in creation and consummation of the universe.” Beale

not a fairy tale ending to this prayer – don’t all live happily ever after without any hardship; is a hope-filled ending

God started it, God will finish it; he doesn’t change, his purpose will endure throughout future generations

God’s purpose is carried out through his Son, the Lord Jesus:

“the world was made through him” John 1:10 “[he has] spoken to us by His Son, …through whom also He made the worlds” Heb. 1:2

the Son is “upholding all things by the word of His power” Heb. 1:3

“He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Cor. 15:51, 57

When contemplating shortness of life, difficulty of day to day living, circumstances, singing “another somebody done somebody wrong song and make me feel at home” – what should the Christian do? Our heart often doesn’t naturally sing praise, especially when circumstances are tough. Requires tuning by God. He will tune our heart when we meditate on him – prayer, remembering and thinking on what he has revealed in his word, what we have for “history” with him. Especially when you don’t feel like it, pray; come to God even if you start out complaining, let him retune your heart to sing his grace.


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