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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Through the Psalms- Part II

Sometimes it feels like God has forgotten us and our prayers. Maybe we've prayed for something for years, like the salvation of a friend or relative. Counting up the amount of time you've spent praying for that one thing over the span of several years equates to quite a bit of time begging the Lord to hear you. And because of that large quantity of time spent without a change in circumstances, you might be wondering, Has God forgotten me?
Asaph felt the same way as he wrote Psalm 77. Just as you and I pray because we believe God hears us and will respond, so Asaph begins his journey of begging for deliverance: "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord . . . ." It's unclear what is bothering Asaph, but it's enough to make him physically ill, " . . . in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak." Perhaps you can relate to Asaph's feelings. You are so bothered by your circumstances that you're up at night worrying, wondering, and waiting. Maybe you even pray more so at night on your bed, and like Asaph feel tired and worn out with your cries.

 Asaph can't find comfort in praying. He's not finding peace and rest, and as his mind tries desperately to find a way to peace he remembers something, "I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, 'Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.' Then my spirit made a diligent search: 'Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?" Asaph goes back in time, thinking about what God did for him years ago. Unfortunately for Asaph, he has been in distress for years, perhaps just like you, as he has to carefully recall the past and retrace his remembrance of God's help for him. He begins to ask himself rhetorical questions. He knows the answer to them: "Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?" We all know the answer to that- No. God will not forsake us. Asaph reminds himself of that and a lightbulb comes on: "Then I said, 'I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.' " He decides to repeat back to God about the promises we know are to be true of Him and appeal to God to answer through God's own words He gave to us. This brings Asaph hope, and it should to you as well.

Perhaps you have not been able to find comfort in praying. Don't stop. Do what Asaph did and recite the promises God has given to us. Make a list. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that God hears and will respond when it's in His timing. This seems to be the turning point for Asaph who then continues on, "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds." Asaph decides to remind himself of all that God has done for him the in the past, how God answered him in the past. And I know we all have those moments to look back onto too. Remember the time when God answered your pray almost immediately after you finished praying? What about all of the other prayers He answered? Bringing to mind all that God has done for us in the past helps to assure us that He will be faithful to continue to answer in the future. It reminds us that God is in charge still and that our God is great enough to conquer even this problem.

Asaph recognizes this as he says:

What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people . . . When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; our lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Asaph ends his Psalm with a recognition that God was big enough to lead His people through the sea, leading the reader to conclude that God is fully able to do so with Asaph's problems, and not just his, yours and mine too! Think about all of the miraculous ways your prayers have been answered, prayers full of impossible requests that God granted. And if you can't think on those, do what Asaph did and go all the way back to how God helped the Israelites, His people.

Although Asaph couldn't end with letting the reader know his prayers had finally been answered, he was able to end his Psalm with hope. Hope is what kept Asaph going, and it's exactly what should keep you and I going. Whatever your circumstance, whatever the request, whether you've been praying for five days or ten years, God will answer, we just need to wait and remind ourselves of His promises and His faithfulness as our God.

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