The Full Spectrum Of Prayer: From Desperate Need To Overflowing Joy

In this psalm we hear all of the tones of petition and thanksgiving. The verses we are reflecting on today are from the end of the psalm and are filled with the exuberance and joy of thanksgiving.

The beginning of the psalm is full of pathos and David’s desire for God’s merciful and strengthening help. It is the cry of one in distress, being challenged by those who are wicked, those who do not understand the Lord’s work in the world, or who defy it. He pleads for God’s ear, that God not be “deaf” to him, or “silent” toward him. How often have we felt this same cry rise up from the depths of our own souls? David’s prayer, like ours, comes from the deep well of our need, and of our faith in God’s love and mercy. We can pray this way because we trust that God will both hear our pleas and that he will answer our prayers.

The verse that we have before us today is full of that faith and the consolation that comes from knowing that our prayers have been heard. David is possibly responding here to a priestly or prophetic oracle assuring him that his prayers have, indeed, been heard. David is showing us the proper response to prayers answered. How many times have we petitioned God out of the depths of our need, full of fear and hope? How many times have our prayers been heard and we felt the weight of our fears lift from us, and then just moved on, without taking time to lift joyous prayers of thanksgiving to God for his generous response?

Prayer is our conversation with the Living God. Because we are fallen and sinful, we are often in need of God’s mercy and his support. It is natural for us, out of our weakness, to call on Him who is our only help, our faithful Father. When he answers our prayers, it should also be natural to humbly and gratefully give thanks to him for his loving care and faithful concern for us, his children. We seem, more often than not, to be in the petition mode in our prayers. Maybe we need to practice the prayer of thanksgiving more often. When we rise to live another day, that is pure gift from God. Let us, then, make our first prayer of the day, a prayer of thanksgiving. At night, before we go to sleep, even after a particularly difficult day, let us look over that day and see if there was some small moment of gift where he gave us strength, or shielded us, and give thanks to God for that seemingly small gift. It may have been the thing that got us through it all.

Lord, we pray in petition to you so often, because we are so often in need. Help us to recognize your loving kindnesses toward us more regularly. Give us hearts like David’s, that are humble enough to exult and sing songs of thanksgiving to you for your ready and generous aid toward us in our times of need. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.