Psalms - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 1 Lesson 02 - Teach us to Pray

Teachers Comments
Jan 06 - Jan 12

Key Text: Luke 11:1

This week, we will reflect upon the desperation expressed by the psalmist amid times of trouble. In our study, we will consider four songs from the Psalter that are instructive in teaching us how to pray amid our daily struggles: Psalms 44, 22, 13, 60.

Part II: Commentary

Psalm 44

The honesty and straightforwardness of the psalmists in their petitions to YHWH may amaze or even shock us. For the most part, we tend to shy away from that level of boldness when addressing our Creator.

Not so the sons of Korah. Let’s look at some of the lessons we can learn from their bold prayer in Psalm 44:

1. The sons of Korah trust in God (Ps. 44:4–8), no matter what humiliations they face, because they remember YHWH’s works for them (Ps. 44:1–3). Their complaint is not one in which hard feelings and recrimination toward God dominate. Rather, their prayer is based on true faith in His strength and mercy.

  1. They claim the Lord has abandoned them to the mercy of their enemies (Ps. 44:9–16). Can we express the same sentiment to our Creator without losing our faith?

  2. The sons of Korah confirm they have not forgotten their God (Ps. 44:17). They have been faithful and acknowledge they cannot cheat the Lord (Ps. 44:17–22).

  3. The song ends with strong cries for God to act on their behalf: “awake,” “arise,” “redeem” (Ps. 44:23–26). Thus, they plead mightily for deliverance.

The psalm ends without a clear answer from the Lord. His silence is a reminder that many times, this side of eternity, we may not always get the response from heaven that we desire. But we must not permit dismay to overwhelm us or cause us to make a shipwreck of our faith.

Psalm 22

This psalm is composed in the same vein as Psalm 44, although it should be noted that Psalm 22 is a personal petition. King David is the author of this psalm. According to discussion surrounding the historical setting of the psalm, we believe it was likely written either when David was under the persecution of Saul or during his affliction under the rebellion of his son Absalom.

Whatever the historical origin of this song, there is no doubt that this psalm is Messianic. The New Testament quotes from it several times in the context of the suffering that Jesus experienced during His trial, torture, and crucifixion:

  • “ ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’ ” (Mark 15:34, Matt. 27:46, NKJV) is a direct quotation of Psalm 22:1.
  • Psalm 22:7 is applied to Jesus on the cross and to His mockers (Mark 15:29, Matt. 27:39, 40).
  • Psalm 22:16 (“ ‘My hands and feet have shriveled’ ” NRSV) is a direct allusion to Jesus being nailed to the cross, even though this particular verse is not quoted by the Gospels.
  • Mark 15:24 and Matthew 27:35 allude to Psalm 22:18.
  • Psalm 22:12–15 also can be applied, without any hesitation, to the experience of Jesus. Psalm 22:17 depicts the condition of our Savior on the cross: “ ‘I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me’ ” (NKJV).

In the context of the study of our lesson this week, it’s a comforting thought to know that this same Creator, when in our human condition, faced a degree of suffering that far exceeds any anguish or trial we shall ever face in our lives. For sure, our Lord recalled this psalm during that fateful Friday of His death and prayed it with tears in His eyes. We, too, can make these words our own amid our sorrows.

How inspiring to know that Jesus Himself lamented in the midst of His suffering and expressed His anguish to His heavenly Father. There is no sin in such an expression of raw honesty. Jesus even requested in the Garden of Gethsemane: “ ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,’ ” reminding us that the genuine expression in prayer of our feelings and weaknesses is never an offense to God’s ears. After Jesus poured out the feelings of His heart to His Father, He ended His prayer with perfect submission to His Father’s will: “ ‘Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’ ” (Matt. 26:39, NKJV).

Likewise, Psalm 22 expresses this same perfect trust and submission to the will of the Father. The psalm ends, as many other psalms do, with words of deliverance (Ps. 22:20–22) and praise (Ps. 22:23–26). It closes with a celebration of the Lord’s mercies (Ps. 22:27–36), spanning, in emotional breadth, from the pit of pain and suffering to the apogee of joy and blessing. Similarly, our prayers should aspire to such glorious heights.

Psalm 13

The writers of the Psalter list two questions to express desperation amid suffering and trials. One question is “Why?” [Heb. _lamah_]. “Why?” is used when the interlocutor wants to understand the actions of God under difficult circumstances, as follows: (1) when it seems the Lord is not doing anything to save His follower (Ps. 10:1, Ps. 44:23); (2) when it seems that God has forsaken the sufferer (Ps. 22:1, Ps. 42:9, Ps. 44:24); or (3) when it appears that the Lord has cast him off (Ps. 42:3, Ps. 74:1, Ps. 88:14). In essence, this question is employed in an attempt to understand the reason for the action (or inaction) of God.

The second question the psalmists use is “How long?” (Ps. 13:1, 2; Ps. 35:17; Ps. 74:10; Ps. 79:5; Ps. 80:4; Ps. 89:46; Ps. 90:13; Ps. 94:3). “How long?” is utterly dissimilar to “Why?” in its intention. “How long?” doesn’t dispute God’s actions in the midst of one’s suffering. Rather, “How long?” acknowledges that the Lord is always in control. Further, this question doesn’t petition God for vengeance against the source of one’s pain and sorrow. This interrogative expression simply voices the desire to know how much longer God will require the believer to wait. Moreover, “How long?” requests the Lord to act. This question also embodies the feeling of spiritual fatigue we endure in the face of our ongoing suffering and the yearning for it to end. We, too, with the psalmist may ask the Lord in our prayers: “How long?” Likewise, we may submit to Him a petition for His intervention and mercy. Such a plea can be termed a “grievance of faith.”

After his painful complaint, David moves to his petition. This transition models for us an important principle in our own prayers: we must not stagnate or wallow in our regrets. Rather, we should move forward in faith: “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes” (Ps. 13:3, NKJV). Many times what we really need is the assurance that the Creator is with us.

As with Psalm 22, this song also ends with words of confidence (Ps. 13:5, 6). But these words are more than a simple statement of faith. During tribulations, the psalmist expresses joy and assurance (Ps. 13:5, 6). His problems still persist, but he trusts that they will be solved, and he relies on God’s providence to sustain him. Such reliance and faith are exemplary. We, too, must trust in God, believe in His power, and claim His promises. The psalmist uses three verbs in his final stanza: “trust,” “rejoice,” and “sing.” How can we rejoice when we are in trouble? Likewise, how can we sing? We can do so when we “have trusted” in God’s “mercy . . . because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5, 6, NKJV).

Psalm 60

The superscription of Psalm 60 gives us the historical context in which the song was written. Typically, the writers of the Psalter don’t provide such background information. However, its inclusion furnishes us with helpful material for understanding the origins of this song.

Psalm 60 relates to the events in 2 Samuel 8:1–14. At that time, David was made king of all of Israel (2 Sam. 5:1–5) and had established Jerusalem as the capital city of his kingdom (2 Sam. 5:6–10). Nathan the prophet brought the covenant from God to the new king (2 Samuel 7). David stood ready to be a recipient of the fulfillment of the promises that the Lord made to Abraham—namely, that his descendants would inherit the land “ ‘from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates’ ” (Gen. 15:18, NKJV). After David’s first victories as Israel’s king against the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17–25; 2 Sam. 8:1, 2) and Moab (2 Sam. 8:2), he faced another military threat from the Arameans. David fought against Hadadezer, king of Zobah, a conflict from which he returned victorious after killing 18,000 Syrians in the Valley of Salt. Also, “throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the Lord preserved David wherever he went” (2 Sam. 8:14, NKJV).

The Psalms are not the philosophical musings of men on a distant deity. The songs are shaped by real problems faced in daily life (cf. 2 Samuel 8, with the mention of Moab, Edom, and Philistia in Psalm 60:82). David wrote Psalm 60 in those terrible moments when Israel fought against powerful enemies. Despite intense opposition (Ps. 60:1–3), David expressed, with faith, “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth” (Ps. 60:4, NKJV).

The melody that is Psalm 60 promises us that God is with His people (Ps. 60:6–8). For this reason, David asks for God’s presence during his most difficult hours (Ps. 60:9–11). In this mode, the psalm ends, not in a pessimistic spirit, brooding on the dark road ahead, but with strong confidence in God to succeed: “Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (Ps. 60:12, NKJV). When confronted with overwhelming challenges and opposition, the best way to face them is to pray. Then we must rise from our knees and trust in God to empower us to do great deeds for Him.

Part III: Life Application

The study of these four songs—Psalms 44, 22, 13, 60—teaches us how to pray in our times of tribulation. We have learned the necessity of honestly expressing our troubles, failures, and discouragement to the Lord in prayer. With assurance, we may bring our complaints and sorrows to our Creator, acting in faith and trusting that our prayers are heard.

Invite the members of your class to express their sorrows to God. Ask them to share with the rest of the group the new ideas this lesson has taught them about prayer. If possible, select a volunteer to share, in the spirit of the psalmists, an experience in his or her prayer life that was faith-strengthening and empowering. Remember, rather than merely being a collection of beautiful poems, the Psalter is an invitation to do God’s will!