Jesus taught his disciples to pray. But there’s a very real sense in which the psalms taught Jesus to pray. In this series, we’re going to sit with Jesus at the feet of the Bible’s lament psalms to see what they can teach us about prayer.
Why the laments? One of my students once observed that reading the laments made her feel like the Holy Spirit had been reading her diary. Generations of the faithful have testified to these psalms’ peculiar ability to help us express our most private and sometimes painful thoughts. Yet, the laments also teach us that, even when our prayers are full of anger or anguish, they are still “praise in a minor key.”
Study #3: No Contest
Read: Psalm 36
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (v. 7, NRSV)
On the face of it, David was no match for Goliath. It didn’t take a military expert to see that a shepherd boy with a sling didn’t stand a chance against a fully armed Philistine giant. If anyone had given odds on this contest, Goliath would have been favored one hundred to one. Yet, those odds would have failed to account for David’s secret weapon: God’s steadfast love.
Psalm 36 has something to say about situations like this. It starts with a daunting description of the wicked, lying awake at night dreaming up “mischief and deceit” (v. 3). They act like they’re not accountable to anyone. They are sure they can get away with murder. Like, Goliath, however, they forget to factor in “the God thing.” And suddenly, the arrogance of the wicked, which seemed so gigantic, is dwarfed by a love that “extends to the heavens” (v.5).
It’s easy to get discouraged when evil seems to be getting the upper hand. It looks as if we’re up against impossible odds. And if we’re relying on our own strength, we are. But that’s the good news: we don’t have to face the giants on our own. God is the secret weapon of the righteous. And when we factor in God, it’s no contest.
I wonder if David was thinking about his battle with Goliath when he wrote Psalm 36. I wonder if it might help us to think about it, too.
Prayer: How precious is your steadfast love, O God!