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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, March 11

Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.
—Psalm 69

Sometimes when we use "church prayers" as our model for communicating with God, we inhibit ourselves. But the Psalms will have none of this. The Psalms reveal a willingness to show our uncensored ugliest nature. They model a style of prayer and communication with God that is fully open, at times even raw. 

They communicate trust and intimacy. It is only with our closest friends, the ones who really know us and still love us, that we are able to drop pretensions, to be who we are and to say whatever is on our minds, even if it is ugly or shameful.

When we are desperate, our most primitive nature emerges. When something we love is threatened, we get angry. Psalm 69 is the cry and prayer of a desperate, angry person. "Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck. I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet," he begins.

Then when he thinks of how he has been betrayed, and about his helpless, lonely state—he gets bitter. He wants a taste of revenge. He wants the bad guys to get theirs. "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see," he says. And (my favorite), "give them continual trembling in their loins." 

Then his fury goes to its logical ends—"Let them be wiped out of the book of the living and not be written among the righteous." Utter damnation for them. That's what he really wants. So that's what he tells God about.

Now that's honesty. No polite "thee's" and "thou's"—no jaunty "Jeezus, weejus" words of sentimental piety. This is an honest prayer in raw language. I think this is the kind of prayer that God treasures.

As he finishes, and he is trembling in exhausted anger, something happens. He's still "afflicted and in pain," but somehow he senses "your help, O God, will lift me up on high." Somehow he knows that "the afflicted shall see and be glad; you who seek God, your heart shall live." A small flame of hope rises in his heart. He knows his prayer has been heard.

God of light and dark, hear our words and the raw feelings below them, and be with us as we are, that we may be known and healed, in honesty and truth. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.