Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dear Christ Church Family,

Does a broken prayer still work? Can God understand us, even when we can’t find the words that say what we think and feel? We’ve all had such prayers; ones that just don’t say what we want, that don’t sound/feel as though we’ve made ourselves understood. When those prayers happen, will God still “get” us? Psalm 6 can help us answer that question, along with a little help from the Apostle Paul.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020                          RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2

AM Psalm 612

PM Psalm 94
Lam. 1:17-22

2 Cor. 1:8-22

Mark 11:27-33

Psalm 6: When words fail. How often we struggle with our prayers. We want God to understand us; to know how we really feel, the depths of our thoughts and emotions. We worry that if we can’t quite say it as we fully mean it, God might not understand; might not understand just how afflicted we are, or how urgent our cause is, or how honest our reasoning is.  And, if we can’t get it right, then we worry: God, we think, just might not answer in the way we need.

In our Psalm this day, Psalm 6 (the first of the “Sorrowful Seven”), the Psalmist is struggling for the right words, when suddenly, words literally fail. It happens in verse 3. It’s not as clear in the Prayerbook translation as it is in the NRSV, but it can still be detected.  After laying out the preceding verses with mounting reasons for the need of deliverance, the Psalmist begs for God to intervene. The verse reads, “My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord – how long?

To this point, the Psalmist has “held it together.” The rhythm of the poetry and stanzas is working, the rhyming at the end of each line (in the Hebrew) is successfully happening, then – then, it all falls apart. No rhyme, no rhythm; even the syntax of language itself disintegrates. The Psalmist is at a complete loss for words. He is at the impossible point of trying to express the inexpressible. This is, I think, the only place in all the Psalms where this happens, where words truly fail.

The effect of this on the Psalmist is good, though. He changes direction and immediately gets to the point, blurting out, “Turn, O lord, save my life;”. Actually, we don’t know if this is a desperate shout, with hands uplifted in an agitated cry, or a hushed whisper from a soul completely spent. Some of you, perhaps all of us, together, have been in this place; maybe even sending out the desperate shout and the spent whisper simultaneously in the deep prayer of our souls. And we wonder, “Has God heard this? Does God understand? Even when I can’t think it straight, much less say it?”

Here is God’s answer to our question. It comes from the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs (and “groans” KJV) too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27 NRSV)

Even the Psalmist seems to understand this. For a few verses further on from his broken words he says, “for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping…the Lord accepts my prayer.” His weeping, moaning, and tears have been the deepest part of the prayer. What Paul is telling us, what the Psalmist already understands, is that God does hear and understand us even when we cannot fully understand ourselves. We need have no fear for God’s understanding of us. God will always hear us and “get” us in our prayers.