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 #10: Four Kinds of People
Read: Psalm 94
Who rises up for me against the wicked? (v. 16, NRSV)
A brave young refugee from Darfur named Abubakar once reflected on Psalm 94. He started off by saying that there are four kinds of people. Working backwards, he identified Group Four as the “evildoers” (v. 16). Group Three, he said, is comprised of refugees—vulnerable victims who have no one to protect them from those who have driven them from their homes. Group Two is made up of people who are doing well and rarely take the time to think about those who aren’t. Finally, Group One includes the people who work with God for justice.
Sometimes we need someone like Abubakar to help us appreciate a prayer like Psalm 94. Like the comfortable members of Group Three, we’re too self-centered to be bothered by the suffering of others. Yet, when Abubakar invites us to see the world through his eyes, we suddenly understand this psalm’s cry for justice. Only when we’re standing beside him can we pray these words, urging God to “give to the proud what they deserve!” (v.2). Only then can we join those in Group One who work for God’s justice.
I heard about Abubakar from a young student of mine named Chuck Breen. Chuck died of cancer before he could finish seminary, but not before he could join Group One. His witness—and Abubakar’s wisdom—call us all to examine our lives and to join them as committed members of Group One.
Prayer: Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and the will to work for your justice, O God.