God, listen to my prayer;
don’t avoid my request!
Pay attention! Answer me!
I can’t sit still while complaining.
I’m beside myself
over the enemy’s noise,
at the wicked person’s racket,
because they bring disaster on me
and harass me furiously.
My heart pounds in my chest
because death’s terrors have reached me.
Fear and trembling have come upon me;
I’m shaking all over.
I say to myself,
I wish I had wings like a dove!
I’d fly away and rest.
I’d run so far away!
I’d live in the desert.
I’d hurry to my hideout,
far from the rushing wind and storm.
Baffle them, my Lord!
Confuse their language
because I see violence and conflict in the city.
Day and night they make their rounds on its walls,
and evil and misery live inside it.
Disaster lives inside it;
oppression and fraud never leave the town square.
It’s not an enemy that is insulting me—
I could handle that.
It’s not someone who hates me
who is exalted over me—
I could hide from them.
No. It’s you, my equal,
my close companion, my good friend!
It was so pleasant when
together we entered God’s house with the crowd.
Let death devastate my enemies;
let them go to the grave alive
because evil lives with them—
even inside them! (Common English Bible)
We all likely know he modern day proverb, “The squeaky wheel gets oiled.” The saying is often used in reference to someone who is loud, even obnoxious, about what they want.
In today’s psalm, David cannot avoid the squeaky wheel. There are people in his face and all up in his grill. The only thing we know about David’s enemies from the psalm is that they were nursing a grudge against him about something. David was hurt and betrayed.
So, David prayed. He pleaded with God to hear his prayer – to not hide from his plea for mercy. David desperately wanted the Lord to respond to his terrible plight. He couldn’t sleep. He had racing thoughts. He was hyper-vigilant. He was downright anxious. David felt the ache of people speaking against him. For whatever reason, they had an axe to grind and were determined to make David’s life difficult.
Although, like David, we sometimes feel like flying away and being at rest from the turmoil, we must deal with the insults, the false rhetoric, and half-truths of others.
The way David confronted the problem was primarily through prayer. Whenever David prayed, it was never a quick on-the-run sort of prayer to God in the rush of dealing with all his kingly duties. Instead, David offered specific, agonizing, timely prayers, asking, even begging God to not let the violent speech and actions of his enemies prevail.
David was committed to maintaining peace, equity, and justice in the public square. In those times when injustice reared it’s ugly head, David’s first response was to pray.
Out of the range of possibilities we might do in response to slander, gossip, backbiting, threats, and general sins of the tongue against us, prayer needs to be the primary tool to face it all. Heartfelt, passionate, detailed, and pointed prayers can and must be offered to the God who hears the righteous in their grief.
If you are in such a position of being oppressed by another, a sage way to begin addressing the situation is through praying the very same psalm that David did when he was under duress.
The biblical psalms are prayers which are meant to be prayed as our own. There is no such thing as praying them too often. It is always open season on praying the psalms for our own contemporary purposes.
The prayers are more than personal. They are public, as well. Violence, strife, iniquity, trouble, oppression, fraud, and injustice effect the entire community. Our prayers can and must include asking God to put an end to all this awful muck.
It’s one thing to have some schmuck we’ve never met make a disparaging social media comment against us, or some random persons spout baseless lies. And it’s quite another thing when it is someone close to us, a trusted friend who turns on us.
God cares about our adverse situations. Unlike fickle friends, the Lord is a faithful companion who will neither leave us nor forsake us. The New Testament affirms and encourages prayer to God in anxious times:
Jesus modeled a life of prayer in response to injustice, suffering, and belligerence.
“Into your hands I entrust my life.” (Luke 23:46, CEB)
“I don’t ask you to take my followers out of the world but keep them safe from the evil one.” (John 17:15, CEB)
May we know that loneliness is far from us. God is with us, always and forever. Amen.
Listening God, you hear the cries of the righteous. Give ear to my plea. I cry out to you for respite from those allayed against me. I ask for justice in my life and in the public square so that the wicked and the unrighteous do not have their way in this world, through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.