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Some parts of Scripture are written as an appeal to nonbelievers–the Gospel of John, for example–while other parts, such as Psalm 77, are written for believers. The poetry of Psalm 77 is like a painting. It paints the intimate details of a believer’s heart as he, or she, struggles to maintain faith through a dark night of ongoing trial.
These words from the NIV are like colors:
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me; in distress; I stretched out untiring hands; I would not be comforted (chose to pray rather than sleep away the pain); I groaned; I meditated; my spirit grew faint; you kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak; Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
What Christian has never felt like this?
But the poet in Psalm 77, who could easily be Christ himself as he nears his death, chooses not to remain in this posture of unanswered, agonized beseeching. He steps forward. He resolves to do something about his mental state. He purposefully chooses to remember.
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (NIV)
What does this believer remember? God’s ways, his past miracles, his power among his believing people. Every Christian has a history with God Almighty. If not, then they are not Christian. All Christians have been saved by God. There is so much to remember! The older one grows, the greater these memories of times when God stepped in to help and to save. For the poet in Psalm 77, it was the crazy crossing of the Red Sea that he remembers. For the guards at the tomb of Christ, it was that magnificent earthquake that released to freedom their no longer dead prisoner. For Jesus, it was when he came up from the waters of baptism and the dove of the Holy Spirit alighted on his head. For Peter, it was when an angel of the Lord silently broke the locks on the chains that bound him captive to the guards in Herod’s dungeon (Acts 12:1-11).
We all have memories. Psalm 77 encourages us as believers not to remain in our feelings of fear and despair, but to make an instant withdrawal from the savings account of our past dealings with God. God’s nature and his love never change; he is eternal; so is his love for us. Because we remember all the times that God saved us in the past, we know that he will not fail us now. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Do you have a prayer closet?
After you pray your most private prayers, do you then publish them on your favorite social media to share with all the world? Jesus’ Father did. It’s called the Psalter.
Do we ever think how awesome it is that the world has a written record of Jesus’ prayers? What an amazing thing! Whose prayers does the world want to hear more than any other? The prayers of Jesus, of course. And yet Jesus prayed privately, just as he taught his disciples.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6 ESV)
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35 ESV)
Nevertheless, the private prayers of Jesus, and often God’s personal responses to these, are preserved as prophecies centuries before they occurred in human, real time. The Psalter, popularly known as the songbook of the church, is also the church’s book of Jesus’ prayers. We pray the psalms because Jesus prayed them before us.