Teach Us To Pray – Study #14: A Prayer from the Depths


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 #14: A Prayer from the Depths

Read: Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. (v. 1, NRSV)

Sound doesn’t travel so well under water. As kids we used to make a game of it. One of us would stand on the end of the dock and scream something while the others would listen from under water, trying to make sense of what was being said. Sometimes we got the gist; other times we misunderstood quite magnificently. Did you say, “Fourscore and seven years ago” or “Gophers have very far to go”?

When the author of Psalm 130 cries to God “out of the depths,” it is first a compliment to God. The psalmist doesn’t have any doubts about God’s ability to hear him clearly. But the fact that his cry rises from the depths also tells us something about how much trouble his is in. People in ancient Israel were terrified of the ocean. So when the psalmist chooses that particular image to describe his situation, it means he’s absolutely desperate.

What is he so worried about?

Though this prayer works for all kinds of desperate situations, the psalmist seems to be drowning in his own sin. Yet, there is one thing that gives him hope: God’s forgiveness (v. 4). So he reaches for the lifeline and feels himself pulled upward to the light.

Whatever it is that drives you into the depths, hear the good news: God’s hears your cry. You have only to reach for the lifeline.

Prayer: Thank you, gracious God, for hearing our cries and forgiving our sins.