The Book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. Eugene says that it provides us with the language for prayer: our responding to the God who speaks to us. “Prayer is not just what good people do and say when they’re doing their best. It’s the language by which we become honest, true, and personal in our response to God. It is the means by which we get everything in our lives out in the open before God.”
Psalm 13 is one of the most well-known psalms of Lament: prayers offered to God when the person or group is hurting – feeling upset, betrayed, or abandoned. These prayers are both individual (as today’s is) and communal, on behalf of the community of faith. Psalm 13 is well known for its structure and unavoidable repetition.
It has a three part-structure. Part 1: verses 1-2 :is the complaint of the poet – God is distant, has God abandoned me? Part 2: verses 3-4 : the prayer of the poet, petition for God to answer, to show up and speak out. Part 3: verses 5-6 describe the deliverance of the poet, who abandons herself into the depths of God’s unfailing love.
English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 –1892) noted that the repetition of the words “How long?” four times in this psalm resemble cries; he creatively refers it as the “How Long Psalm” or, the “Howling Psalm”.
Some think this might be the prayer composed by King David when his son Absalom conspired against him (2 Samuel 19. Others think it could have been when David (or another person) is sick, fearful of death, without hope of healing. While the exact context in which this prayer is uttered is not described, it is easily identifiable. We all have been through such dark valleys of doubt, traversed such dark nights of the soul when all seems lost and God seems all too mute and deaf to our cries for help.
Something transpires between verse 4 in which the poet claims to be shaken, without hope…and the beginning of verse 5.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What part of today’s psalm grabs you?
- What stories in the Bible does such a prayer of despair bring to your mind? •
- How do you struggle today to see or hear God at work in our world, or in your life?
- How have you found salvation and joy in the moments of lament and feelings of abandonment by God in your own life? How did/has that experience of transformation reshape your life? Breath resilience into our faith?
- How do you feel disoriented or lost today? Talk with God about it. If you’re up for it compose your own psalm of lament or song of hope!