“Out of the depths I cry to you” (Psalm 130:1). This week’s Bible Study video and prayer points is intended to provide encouragement as many have been struggling through lockdown, furlough from their jobs, and uncertainty about the future.
As usual, I am posting the video below followed by a written summary and some suggestions for prayer. These videos and prayer suggestions are not just for the Covid-19 crisis. God’s word is the foundation of our praying at all times.
Some thoughts on Psalm 130
Psalm 130 is one of the “songs of ascents”, which were sung by the pilgrims on their way to worship at the temple.
I) Life is not easy (v1a)
“Out of the depths.” We’re not told what the trouble was, but the word normally refers to the depths of the sea. So it is a metaphor. The psalmist is saying that trouble is so great, it is like he is drowning.
Feeling overwhelmed does not make you a bad Christian; it shows that you are a normal Christian living in a fallen world.
The challenge is what we do when we feel overwhelmed.
II) Therefore we need to cry to the Lord (v1b-2a)
Often when we are in trouble, we don’t feel like praying. However, the psalmist didn’t wait for the situation to improve before he prayed. “Out of the depths I cry to you.”
“Cry” means to call out loudly to get someone’s attention. Of course, we don’t need to pray loudly to get God’s attention. The language shows the emotional state of the psalmist. He needs help urgently and so the way he prays reflects that. Similarly, we don’t need to put our emotions and anguish to one side when we pray. We pray with honesty and bring the reality of the situation, our needs and the way we feel to Him.
It is even acceptable when we feel the frustration of delayed answers to ask the Lord to listen – “Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.” (v2)
III) At the same time, we recognise that God’s answer is because of His mercy not because we deserve it (v2b-4)
Mercy is kindness and generosity to someone undeserving, it is choosing not to punish even though you have a right to demand punishment, it is reaching down to help those who cannot help themselves.
v2b: The psalmist can’t swim through the ocean of trouble. He needs to be rescued and he can’t save himself. Prayer is recognising that we cannot do it ourselves. Even if we have the human ability, that ability is a gift of God and so we need to pray.
v3: The Lord has a right to demand punishment. If He were to mark (that is, note or point out) our sins, no-one could stand before Him.
v3b: Instead He is kind and generous to us – He forgives us.
Therefore He deserves our awe, wonder and obedience (v4).
So, while we come desperate for help, we do not come demanding. We recognise that our greatest need is not healing, safety or finance, but forgiveness. We rejoice that with the Lord there is forgiveness. Our hope is more certain than the psalmist. We know there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We know that through Him we can stand clean and accepted in God’s presence and that He will hear us.
IV) Prayer involves waiting (v5-6)
Three times in these two verses, there is the word “wait.” This is waiting in eager expectation and anticipation, waiting patiently, with longing.
The watchmen (v6) on the walls of the city know that morning is coming. However, they are still longing for it. They are longing for the night to be over so that they can see clearly that the city is safe and they can rest.
This psalm reflects the Christian life, starting with crying out in the depths of sin (v1-2), forgiveness (v3-4), and the longing for the dawn of the new creation (v5-6). We are straining forward to the goal of glory (Phil 3:13-14). We know it is coming, and we long for it.
Prayer is part of that straining forward like a runner leaning towards the finish line. We are running the race and leaning forward to reach out to Him for help in the midst of the race of life. There are hurdles, there is pain, there is the relentless putting of one foot in front of the other, there is tiredness and pressure, and so we need Him for every step.
Notice that it doesn’t say that I am waiting for an answer, but I am waiting for the Lord. The goal of prayer is God Himself, and knowing Him more. Prayer is bringing our need to Him and placing ourselves in His hands for His will to be done in our lives.
V) Prayer in faith – His promise and His person (v5b, 7-8)
Promises – In His word I hope (v5). All the fuel for prayer, and the assurance we receive to pray, comes from His word. It is unchanging. It is the truth. His promises are yes in Christ.
Person – steadfast love (v7). He is committed to us totally in Christ. And through Christ, He brings “plentiful redemption”. In Him all our sins are forgiven (v8).
It is on this basis that we pray. We pray, knowing that the Lord is for us and not against us. We pray knowing that we are accepted in the beloved. We pray reaching out to Him in the race of life as we strain forward to glory. We pray knowing that He Himself is the One we need.
Whether it is for your personal situation or for others or for the situations around the world, we need the Lord. Let’s seek Him. Let’s place ourselves in His hands. Let’s wait for Him and trust in His word.
Ideas for prayer
1) Out of the depths I cry to You
Spend a short time bringing to the Lord situations that trouble you. Ask Him to help you in them and ask Him to change them. Pray the same for others that you know are going through “the depths.”
2) Confess your sins to Him (v2-4)
The virus and the lockdown highlight our weakness and our need for the Lord. We all fall short of His glory every day. Let’s confess our sin to Him, let’s agree with the psalmist that we stand guilty before Him. Thank Him for His forgiveness of your sins.
3) Waiting for the Lord (v5-6)
Let’s call upon the Lord and seek His intervention in the different situations around the world:
The coronavirus crisis
The needs of the suffering church
Lockdown around the world means that many poor people, including Christians (who are often poor and marginalised) have very few rights, and are overlooked in the provision of food. They are often the first to lose their jobs.
The draconian rules during lockdown makes it easier for states to target people that they don’t agree with. Pray for God’s protection for His people and that the word of God would spread in these closed nations.
4) Pray for souls (v7-8)
Thank God for our own redemption. Thank Him for His “plentiful redemption.”
Pray for others to find this redemption. Pray for those you know who need Christ.