There are definitely times when I like to be alone. In college and seminary I used to take time, every so often, to get away from the campus for a few hours. I would drive to a nearby park, forest preserve or lake, where I could have some quiet, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, and have a place to think and pray. Sometimes I would just stay in the car and read a few verses from the Bible, then meditate on what I had read. Other times I would get out and walk, praying to the Lord as I did. I felt like He was speaking to me during those times, as well. To be honest, I didn’t really feel I was alone.
There have been times in my life, though, when I did feel very alone, even rejected. Times when I felt like I was a failure and the Lord would never be able to use me. Times when I had lost a job or had been betrayed by a friend. Times like when my mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Times when the Lord seemed so far away and I was almost feeling hopeless. Circumstances can seem so overwhelming. They can be hard times for anyone.
I think that’s how the psalmist felt when he penned the words to Psalm 142. In the heading of the psalm we learn a bit about its background. It was written “by David,” “when he was in the cave.” It’s called a “maskil,” a term meaning “contemplative.” Finally, it’s said to be a “prayer.” You can be sure that David, after a life-threatening encounter with Saul in that cave (described in 1 Samuel 24), had a lot to contemplate and pray about.
This psalm is a very down-to-earth expression of the very deep emotions welling up within David. Tony Evans says this about Psalm 142 in his Study Bible, “If you have assumed that all prayer should be dignified and employ only theological jargon in your petitions to God, you have not understood prayer rightly.”
Here are verses: 1-3: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; I reveal my trouble to him. Although my spirit is weak within me, you know my way.” You can almost hear him crying-out to the Lord as he desperately pleads with God for help. He’s honestly sharing his complaints and pouring-out his troubled soul to Him. We can pray to the Lord that way, too, when we’re feeling alone and abandoned. Dr. Evans comments further, “Let David be your model. He approaches God honestly, pleading emotionally for deliverance. As a troubled child depends on his or her daddy, go to your heavenly Father in your turmoil.”
David may have felt that no one understood and no one was standing up for him. He had no place to turn. No one cared for him. No one seemed to be on his side, (vs. 4). So he cried out to the Lord for help! That’s where we too must go when we’re feeling overwhelmed by our troubles. He prayed, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am very weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me,” (vs. 5-6). He asks the Lord to free him from prison so he can praise his name. (vs. 7). David’s prison was a cave. For us it could be any situation or addiction that holds us captive.
The psalm closes by saying: “The righteous will gather around me because you deal generously with me.” He started out feeling alone, but realized he wasn’t. Whatever difficulty or suffocating situation you may find yourself in, remember that the Lord said He would never leave you nor forsake you. You’re no longer alone when you know Him.
Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.