Psalms of Supplication
5, 28, 36, 42, 43, 54, 61, 63, 86, 123
MMMMM, bread, warm, out of the oven, with butter or olive oil! Nothing better. Serve it with every meal, load up on it at restaurants before even taking a bite out of your entree. Even Oprah, the new Weight Watcher guru, says its okay to eat bread (in moderation).
God provided manna in the desert, one of the miracles of the Exodus story. Enough for each day, not enough to store for another day. (Except for on Saturday when the Hebrews collected a double portion in order to be able to rest on the Sabbath.) When the people got tired of just eating bread and complained, God sent quail. God also provided water for his people. Still they found reasons to whine. When they reached the promised land and were able to provide their own food, the gravy train of bread and quail ended. I imagine there were some complaints again. God is pretty patient with all of our whining.
We only have ten psalms to focus on in this section, but rich ones. Having recognized God as Father, praised our God in heaven, and prayed for God’s will and kingdom, we now turn to our needs.
Jesus instructs us to pray: give us this day our daily bread. We are to pray every day for that which we need, not just our bread, but everything. We are to turn to God in prayer, seeking that which we desire. Most of these psalms are individual laments where the individual cries out to God for help. The psalms are plaintive as the writers cried to God to hear their prayers.
We are to pray to our Father for all of our needs, trusting that our God who provided bread, manna, in the desert to the Israelites, will provide for our needs as well. It is a reminder that we can depend on our God, as Jesus tells us: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Mt. 6:25-26)
The situation of each individual is not well known in these psalms. They pray in general for safety and protection from those who would seek harm. They don’t ask specifically for food or shelter, yet that is implied.
In Psalm 28 the writer has taken refuge in the Temple, seeking safety from those who would harm him. Psalm 5 also speaks of seeking refuge in the Temple – “because I can enter your house because of your great love.” (5:8a) The security of the house of God is contrasted with the company of evildoers. Psalm 36 speaks of the greatness of God’s love and the abundance of his house – “We feast on the rich food of your house; from your delightful stream you give us drink.” (36:9) In Psalm 63 the psalmist speaks of his confidence that God will provide good things to those who seek him – “I will lift up my hands, calling on your name. My soul shall savor the rich banquet of your praise.” (63:5b-6a)
I’m struck by how so often in the Psalms, the writer responds in gratitude to God even before God has done anything, thanking God in advance. We see this in Psalm 26 when the writer suddenly shifts from a lament to thanksgiving – “Blessed be the Lord, who has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusted and found help. So my heart rejoices; with my song I praise my God.” (26:6-7)
In our own prayer we are encouraged to do the same, thanking God for all God has done and thanking God in advance for what God will do. It is a prayer of confidence even in times of trial. Even in the midst of great sorrow in Psalms 42 and 43, the writer ends on a note of promise – “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.” (42:6, 12; 43:5) And again at the end of Psalm 63 – “All who swear by the Lord shall exult for the mouths of liars will be shut.” (12b)
Notable in this selection of psalms are the prayers of desire for God: ”As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?” (42:1); “O God, you are my God—for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless and without water.” (63:2) The greatest desire of the writer in these psalms is to be with God. It is a reminder that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God and by the bread of life, Jesus. It is a reminder of our dependence on God for everything.
We need to recognize our own deep need and thirst for our God which is greater than our need for physical sustenance. The psalmists were not afraid to ask God for everything they desired, however they recognized that their deepest desire was for God. So often we are not in touch with this desire. We think, if only I would win the Lotto – I would give half to the poor – then I would be happy. But that won’t satisfy us. As Augustine told us, we will never rest, be happy, satisfied, until we rest in Thee. After praying for God’s kingdom and God’s will, we can ask in confidence for whatever we desire, trusting that our God will purify our desires to align them more closely with his will.
And so we pray to our God for our daily bread, trusting our God. We need to pray this every day, thanking God in advance, knowing our God will provide.
Do you really trust God to provide all that you need?
Do you hold back in your prayers rather than asking for all that you want?
Do you allow God to purify your request by aligning them with his will?
Do you thank God in advance, acknowledging all he has done for you in the past and that he will continue to pour blessings on his children?