A PRAYER OF ONE AFFLICTED, WHEN HE IS FAINT AND POURS OUT HIS COMPLAINT BEFORE THE LORD.
1Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you!
2Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
4My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.
5Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.
6I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
7I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink,
10because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
12But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
13You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come.
14For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.
15Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16For the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;
17he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.
18Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
21that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise,
22when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.
23He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days.
24“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations!”
25Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.
We are not given any clear indication of why or by whom this psalm was written. But there are some hints that attribute this prayer to King Hezekiah who became fatally ill and begged God for more time in this life. This psalm closely mirrors his words to the Lord after his request was granted.
1In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. 7 “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: 8 Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.
This prayer beautifully articulates the emotional and sometimes spiritual roller coaster we have all experienced when life become challenging. When we are in pain, it can seem as though God is distant or uncaring and that is never true. This psalmist first acknowledged (honestly) his pain and the deep suffering that he is living through. But then he turns to what he knows to be true about God, even to the point of appropriating from himself God’s promises to an entire nation. That is not necessarily a bad thing. God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His mercies extend to the individual and to His people as a whole. And those mercies are ever ours.