How do we pray in such troubled times? Just within the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen shootings in every Triad city, racially-motivated shootings in churches and grocery stores, and the worst school shooting in a decade. These things break the heart of God and should break our hearts as well—they are evil and pervasive. It can be challenging to see God moving in the midst of such tragedy. So is it okay to pray when the most natural first sentence we can utter is, “God, where are you?”. Actually, it is. The book of Psalms is more than a prayer guide, but not less. In this book, we have a pattern to run to when our hearts are overwhelmed with grief and questions over the horror we see in the world. Psalm 10 is a great example.
1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
6 He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
8 He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Last week in light of the murders in Buffalo, I shared this Psalm with our staff team. I think it provides us with a road map when we aren’t sure exactly what to pray for. It is incredibly honest and shows us that we can be honest in our prayer lives as well. The truth is, right now, I am not sure what to say. The weariness of the world feels like it’s too much to bear. The world is broken and filled with sin and the pain that comes from it. It’s okay to feel and voice that as well. But this Psalm, as do many others, doesn’t end there. It teaches us to lift our heads and ask God to intervene. Then it fuels our hope by declaring that God is still on his throne and this world will not be like this forever. Psalm 10 shows us how to mourn before God while maintaining our faith even in the hardest times. Right now, I am using it to do both.