ADVENT PRAYER: Monday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

Monday Of Advent III by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 6

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me. (v. 2)

For someone who lives with God, what is the appropriate response to trouble?  Whether from inward distress of soul, or from outward distress by adversity?  The psalms teach us that the proper response is always prayer.  Through prayers, the psalmists bring forward every manner of suffering.  There is not affliction that is not suitable gist for the mill of conversation with God.

In the case of Psalm 6, affliction has taken hold in both the body and the soul of the psalmist.  “My bones are in agony,” says one translation, and, “My soul is in deep anguish,” in another, (vv. 2-3).  In both cases, the Hebrew word may be translated literally as “terrified.”  His condition is one of utmost panic, physically as well as emotionally.  “Shaking with terror,” says the NRSV.  Moreover, while he is fearfully aware that his enemies (be they physical or spiritual) seek his destruction, he is most dreadfully afraid that his chief enemy may be the Lord himself – “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,” (v. 1).

The psalmist has a conscience, and before God he knows that he stands unworthy.  Were he to die with his thoughts, words, and deeds left unabsolved, he would be banished to death as an unreconciled enemy of the Lord.  This is a prospect he cannot bear, and so tears of grief and despair soak his pillow night after night.

However, fear does not have the final say.  The psalmist has brought his complaint to the “throne of grace,” where he “may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16).  There is a distinct change in the tone of the psalm after verse 7.  “The Lord has heard my supplication,” he declares, (v. 9).  The sound of his weeping does not go unnoticed by the Lord.  The psalmist is left neither alone in his despair, nor without hope for deliverance.

The tide has turned at last, and it will be his enemies, not his own soul and body, who will be “sorely troubled,” (v. 10).  What if the psalmist had not turned to the Lord in his desperation?  As pitiful as was his condition, his voice was a welcome sound to the ears of Heaven.  The psalmist’s panic is replaced by a renewed confidence that God has heard and accepted his prayer, (v. 9).  A thousand years later, the apostle Paul put it succinctly to his readers: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

From The Fathers

The psalmist constantly invokes this word, Lord, as though adducing some claim to pardon and grace.  This, after all, is our greatest hope, his loving-kindness beyond telling, and the fact that he is such a one as to be ready to pardon. (John Chrysostom)

Father, there is no question that my sin causes me much pain, in my bones, and in my soul.
And you are the great Physician of both.
Heal me, Lord—
Relieve the pain.
Forgive the sin.
Save my whole life.

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