Asking for Help
O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord. Psalm 6:1-2
There is anguish here: shaking with terror, moaning, weeping, fearing death, oppressed by foes and enemies. The fears and sufferings are described, the foes and enemies called out. We can feel like this in the night hours, lying awake. Our oppressor may not be another person. It could be depression, finances, work, estrangement, or the fear of being different. Whatever the source, the anguish is real; it can overwhelm us, and cause us to want to give up and withdraw into ourselves.
The psalmist does not just recite his woes and accept them. Woven through the cries of anguish are two kinds of prayer, first, to not be rebuked or disciplined by God, and second, to be freed from his anguish.
In the face of setbacks or loss, we may wonder whether we may be getting what we deserve — as sinners, shouldn’t we feel God’s wrath and anger? But the New Testament teaches that this is not our fate. We can confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness from God, who is merciful — not angry and wrathful.
When we pray for something, our prayers may not be answered according to our expectations. Those expectations are grounded in and limited by our human knowledge and understanding, and we cannot anticipate the nature of God’s response. C.S. Lewis wrote: “Only God himself can let the bucket down to the depths in us. And, on the other side, he must constantly work as the iconoclast. Every idea of him we form, he must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking, ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed.’”
When we ask God for something, we enter a dialogue that we cannot control. We should not fear it. As our part of that dialogue, we must be open and alert for God’s answer.
Merciful God, when I pray, let me come to you honestly and as myself, and when I have asked for help, let me understand your answer and be thankful for it. Amen.