Title: An Inside Job
By St. Luke’s Pastoral Staff
O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?Selah
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
The psalms, though contained in the Holy Bible, are not the word of God. They are a collection of words to God and not God’s words to me. Not only do they offer us a peek into the prayer life of King David and others, but they offer us a pattern on which to model our own prayers. And the psalms of lament remind us that one of the most important components of prayer is honesty.
The author Glennon Doyle writes about her children not having to wear special “church clothes” on Sundays to church, but instead being allowed to wear exactly what they feel like that day. She writes, “Wear what you want… God knows who we are inside anyway: so wearing an uncomfortable, fancy costume (literal or figurative) to church is a little like getting really dressed up for an x-ray.”
When our prayers are in Sunday clothes, they are not true outcries to God. Psalms of lament are the opposite of Sunday clothes… they are the yoga pants we all feel like wearing to church but don’t because we think we have to look perfect on the outside. They are honest, even if that honesty is embarrassing. Psalms of lament don’t try to sound like the prayers of perfect believers… they are the truthful cries of hurting believers.
You see right through our efforts to be pristine and perfect. Thank you for the freedom from perfection and the graciousness through which you see us. Help us to hold onto that grace when the pressure to be perfect fills our heads with doubt, worry, and shame. Amen.