Read: Psalm 142:1; Psalm 3:4, 30:8, 77:1; Hebrews 5:7
The personal application of Psalm 142 comes in times “of mortal danger when wealth is of no avail, wisdom is useless, and physical strength is meaningless; only prayer to God can avail” (Midrash). As a Maskil, or instructive psalm, Psalm 142 teaches about prayer in desperate circumstances. The first lesson is: in times of urgent need, call out loud to the Lord. The Hebrew word translated “cry aloud” means to shout, or shriek.
Think About It: The silent prayer of the heart has God’s blessing (1 Samuel 1:31).
Why, therefore, are we told to cry out and given examples of crying out in prayer? What is the function of “giving voice” to prayer? About what kinds of things do I raise my voice (e.g. sporting events? political issues? family arguments)? Do I ever cry aloud to God in prayer? Do I care more about what happens to a ball in a game than to what happens to my soul in eternity?
Prayer: For the passion to cry aloud in prayer.
Read: Psalm 142:2; 2 Kings 19:14 – 20
The second lesson of Psalm 142 regarding prayer in desperate circumstances is: pour out my complaint and declare my trouble. Hezekiah provided a good example of this when he spread Sennacherib’s letter before the Lord.
Think About It: God is omniscient; therefore, He doesn’t need information from me. What function, then, is served by putting my circumstances into words? Do I believe that God is willing to listen to complaints? (See Jeremiah 12.)
Prayer: Lord, here is my complaint . . .
Read: Psalm 142:3; Psalm 107:5; Psalm 143:4
In Psalm 142 David demonstrated how to pour out a complaint to the Lord. The third lesson regarding prayer in desperate circumstances: tell God how much I hurt. David said, “My spirit was overwhelmed.“ The Hebrew word means being bent over in excruciating pain.
Think About It: Why do we tell the doctor how much it hurts when we are in pain? Since God knows everything anyway, why is it important for me to tell him how much I hurt?
Prayer: Lord, here is how much I hurt . . .
Read: Psalm 142:3, 4, 6; Psalm 109:31; 1 Samuel 19:1 – 7; 20:30 – 33
The fourth lesson of Psalm 142 regarding prayer in desperate circumstances is: tell God exactly why I am hurting.
Think About It: What exactly were the reasons for David’s pain according to Psalm 142:3, 4, and 6? How does 1 Peter 5:6 relate to “I am brought very low” (Psalm 142:6)? How does Romans 7:24 relate to “my persecutors . . .are too strong for me” (Psalm 142:6)?
Prayer: Lord, here is why I am hurting . . .
Read: Psalm 142:5; Psalm 46:1; Romans 5:5
In the midst of the despair and pain of Psalm 142 comes the fifth lesson regarding prayer in desperate circumstances: affirm that God is my only hope. David recognized that his cave provided no safety and that only God was a safe haven.
Think About It: How and when have I experienced God as my refuge and strength and present help in time of trouble? Does God’s strength mean that there will always be a temporal means of “escape from the trap” (see Hebrews 11:32 – 40)?
Prayer: Praise God that He is my refuge and strength!
Read: Psalm 142:6, 7; Hebrews 4:14 – 16; Luke 22:42
The sixth lesson of Psalm 142 regarding prayer in desperate circumstances is: ask God for what I need.
Think About It: What were David’s specific requests from God in Psalm 142:6, 7? In Psalm 142:7 David’s request indicated that what he at first regarded as a safe retreat had become a prison. The things we rely on for refuge, other than God, can become a trap. Do I have a “cave of refuge” that has become a cage for me? What qualifier should I add to my requests?
Prayer: Lord, bring my soul out of prison. Your will be done!
Read: Psalm 142:7; 1 John 5:14 – 15
The seventh lesson in Psalm 142 regarding prayer in desperate circumstances is: base my request on God’s glory. David based his request on the hope that when God answered he would have reason to thank God, and the righteous would join him in praising God.
Think About It: How does 1 John 5:14 – 15 relate to Psalm 142:7? On what basis can I have assurance that my prayers are heard and will be answered?
Prayer: To God be the glory!