God! Please hurry to my rescue!
God, come quickly to my side!
Those who are out to get me—
let them fall all over themselves.
Those who relish my downfall—
send them down a blind alley.
Give them a taste of their own medicine,
those gossips off clucking their tongues.
Let those on the hunt for you
sing and celebrate.
Let all who love your saving way
say over and over, “God is mighty!”
But I’ve lost it. I’m wasted.
Quick to my side, quick to my rescue!
God, don’t lose a minute. (MSG)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that today’s psalm is a plea from a desperate person in a desperate situation of life and death. Help is needed, not in some future time, but immediately!
I don’t know if you have ever been in such a stressful and dangerous situation in which all you could say is “Help! Help me!” The abject feeling of helplessness is palpable and just plain awful. The sense there is nothing you can do to improve your circumstance other than some sort of merciful divine intervention is more than unnerving. Its downright hard to breathe, let alone trying to cry out for rescue.
It seems the psalmist was in a position where there were people getting a twisted sense of joy over the misfortune of others. Its as if they were delighting in the confusion and vulnerability of those unable to stop what is happening.
In the throes of such stress and danger the psalmist wants the evil turned back on the wicked. He wants such persons off his back – to have God hunt them like they are hunting the poor and needy who have no ability to resist.
It makes sense this psalm is short, just a few verses. Long prayers aren’t necessarily better. Prayers can be short, especially when it is a frantic cry for God’s help. There is nothing in Holy Scripture that dictates how long or short prayer ought to be. “Help!” just might be one of the best prayers we can pray. One little word. That’s all it takes.
It also makes sense to me that this is an honest prayer. When in the throes of some horrible situation, all pretension goes out the window. Honest heartfelt prayers are the best kind of prayer. If we are hurting badly enough, boldness comes quickly to the tip of our tongues. I once had a kidney stone (which was extremely painful!). I walked in a bent over position into the Emergency Department of a hospital and yelled at the first staff person I saw, saying, “I want help, NOW!”
To confess our great need to a God who listens might just be the best kind of theology we could ever express. In such a terrible place as the psalmist was, there is no thought to keeping up appearances. There is only an unfiltered expression of need. Our prayers can be earnest and urgent.
Prayer can be short, honest, and urgent because emergent situations require it. So, what do you do when you feel desperate? How do you handle your emotions? Where do you go for help?
In this Holy Week we are reminded that Jesus looked to the Father for help. In the worst of circumstances – facing ridicule, torture, and a horrible death – the Lord Jesus let the psalms shape his own prayers of desperation while under severe stress and duress:
“The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” (John 13:18; Psalm 41:9)
“They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:24; Psalm 69:4)
“I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” (Matthew 26:38; Psalm 42:5-6)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1)
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:16)
There is a God who understands our plight. Jesus, the pioneer of our salvation, has gone before us in the way of suffering and knows what it is like to experience the agony and anguish of evil’s weight. He is our great high priest, the one who can intercede effectively and compassionately for us in our great times of need:
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So, let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (Hebrews 4:14-16, MSG)
May you find in Jesus the help you so desperately need. Amen.