Have you ever experienced times of trouble to the point where it felt like you couldn’t move on? Perhaps you’ve been on the verge of death or known someone who is?
How do your prayers change in these seasons? What if your prayers had that same sense of desperation all the time? Do your prayers stay stuck in the mire or do you end in praise and thanksgiving?
Psalm 116 is one of the most personal psalms and it reveals some important insights into how to pray and how to respond gratefully to God’s initiative.
Trouble knocking at the door
While it’s not clear what the psalmist endured, he obviously sits on death’s doorstep. Three times he references death. “Death wrapped its ropes around me,” says verse 3. The psalmist is utterly desperate.
How do we pray when we are desperate? We cry out. We call out and ask others to pray. Suddenly we become clear that there is only one person who can help. So we believe with childlike faith. And since God always listens and shows mercy and kindness, we keep on praying “as long as (we) have breath” (v. 2).
How much trouble can we bear?
The psalmist says he’s “deeply troubled” and sees only “trouble and sorrow.” He’s full of anxiety and vexed by liars who are probably falsely accusing him.
Sometimes the death we fear is internal. We’ve become numb to life as a way to protect ourselves from the pain of rejection, attack, persecution, or failure. Even in this place, we can cry out to the Lord. “In my anxiety, I cried out to you” (v. 11).
How do we pray when we feel so desperate?
Verse 6 reminds us, “The Lord protects those of childlike faith.” In desperate times we’re not likely to worry about voicing the right words. Romans 8:26 encourages us, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
That’s great news! We don’t need all the right words. In fact, we don’t even have to start with thanksgiving. We start where we are and as we talk to God he changes our hearts so that we can express praise and thanks.
How does God respond to our trouble?
God responds by listening, bending down, saving, showing mercy, and freeing us from the chains of sin, trouble, and death. God saves us from physical, emotional, and spiritual death.
Jesus came to set us free from all the chains that bind us. When he announced the purpose of his ministry, he said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’Luke 4:18 TPT
Why does God bother to respond at all?
Verse 15 says, “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” God is moved by our troubles, anxieties, and desires life for us. God is motivated by his heart which is defined by love, mercy, goodness, and kindness. He responds because he loves us.
“What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?” asks the psalmist in verse 12.
Let’s remember we can never repay God, so you’ll notice that all the things promised by the psalmist are heartfelt, but not driven by his ability to give anything God needs.
He promises to walk in the Lord’s presence all of his days (v. 9). He will lift praise, thanksgiving, and keep calling on the name of the Lord. He will fulfill all of his vows in public.
What effect does this have on the psalmist?
God saved him from death. As a result, his heart is full of love (v. 1) and his soul is at rest again (v. 6).
You may not be in a place of utter desperation today, but we can learn to approach God earnestly with whatever troubles us. And when God answers, remember to publicly praise him, offer thanks, and keep walking in his ways.
In the spring of 2020, one of my daughters nearly died. We cried out desperately and kept calling on the name of the Lord. We asked thousands of friends, family, and others to pray. Against all the doctor’s predictions, she lived. God rescued her. God heard our prayers. I continually thank God for saving her and answering our prayers.
The temptation when things are going well is to forget what God did in your darkest hours. Regularly remembering how God saved you can bring assurance that he will walk with you through whatever trials come today or in the future.
The journey from trouble to thanks is treacherous, but God walks with us, rescues us, and strengthens us along the way.
The song “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle is a great reminder of how God rescued us:
If you’re in a time of trouble, spend time talking to God about the problems. Ask him to rescue you. And determine now how you will give him thanks for his answer.
Father, thank you for hearing my prayers and always listening to me. Thanks for showing me mercy, kindness, and goodness that I don’t deserve. I praise you for rescuing me from eternal death and giving me eternal life through your Son. I praise you for sending the Spirit to help me voice the prayers I can’t even express. Grant me the gifts of peace and childlike faith. I will always love you, praise you, and thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.