145 I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord,
I will keep Your statutes.
146 I cried unto You; deliver me,
and I shall keep Your testimonies.
147 I arose before the dawn of the morning and cried for help;
I hope in Your words.
148 My eyes are awake before the night watches,
that I might meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness, O Lord;
revive me according to Your judgment.
150 They draw close, those who persecute me with evil;
they are far from Your law.
151 But You are near, O Lord,
and all Your commandments are true.
152 I have known of old
that You have established Your testimonies forever. [Modern English Version]
Unrelenting and desperate hope. I cannot recall ever being in quite the state of panic that the psalmist appears to be in today. I can definitely relate to the feeling of being targeted and the victim of personal attack at the hands of “evil” people (evil by virtue of the fact that they are attacking me)… but never to the extent that brings on the fevered appeals for help that we see here. And, I cannot say that I have responded in quite the same way—putting complete and total trust in God’s hands without looking for my own way out as well.
But why not? Why my reluctance to believe that God will come through in the clutch? The words I heard so many times from my grandma jump to mind, “God helps those who help themselves.” Or the words I heard so many times from my mother and from Sunday school teachers, “God doesn’t always answer prayers the way we want or expect Him to.” These ideas took root in my mind and are a part of the way I look at prayer. But the bigger factor, I believe, is that I can clearly recall a time in my life when I did pray daily, earnestly, and with as much desperation as we see in this psalm. I had every hope that God would here me and answer my prayer. I was young (10ish or early teenage years), but it was not for some frivolous reason. My dad’s MS was becoming increasingly bad and was taking a toll on him, my sister and me, but especially my mother. My prayer was for his healing or at least softening of his symptoms… Days, weeks, months… nothing. Looking back, the only tangible outcome I can find is skepticism.
I cannot recall what triggered me, at that point in my life, to start on this campaign of rigorous prayer. I do know it changed the vector of my understanding of my relationship with God. It was the beginning of a period in which I began questioning everything. It lead to a place of what I’ll call para-atheism. My beliefs about God and everything I was taught in church began crumbling. But not by choice. I chose to hold on by my fingertips as my (religious) world crumbled around me. The thought of there being no God scared me too much to allow myself to let go. This was the beginning of my transition of a religion based on belief to one based on faith (although it was not until decades later that I would be able to identify this transition in those terms).
So where does this all leave me with respect to today’s psalm stanza? I’m not really sure. I identify with both the feeling of desperation to a degree and to the desire to cry for help. But I cannot decide if I admire the psalmist for his pure unfaltering trust or find him a tad childish in his faith at the same time.