A Prayer for Our Week's Work
Putting Us in Our Places

From the Pits


In the pits
Here are some loose reflections from the pits.

You might be in a pit

"Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close..." - Psalm 69:15 ESV

"But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task ..." - Psalm 73:16 ESV

There is a point of turning and re-energizing, close to the edge, just shy of the precipice. Where the power of our reasoning and quest for personal justice and meaning is frustrated and wearisome, we move to the next verse. Do not stop at this verse.

There is a redemptive word that is accented by the intensity of our opposition. Our enemies may be formidable, but if God draws near, they are rendered impotent.

For me, it is good ...

"But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, ..." - Psalm 73:28, ESV

We wander about and wring our hands in despair and confuson.

"... UNTIL... "

"... until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end." - Psalm 73:17, ESV

"Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but... " - Psalm 69:20, ESV

These are words for those despairing today. Reproaches have broken your heart. There is none showing you pity. Good. Their pity is not what you or we need. We need this wrestling match of faith. We need this introspective, theocentric deep prayer time. It forms us. I include me. It is a common journey if we will take it. The surface of it can be observed, but the depths of despairing and heights of hope that wage war and that stretch the soul are militantly personal. The empathy we need is not within the capacity of our neighbors, friends, or foes. You are in the right arena today. At your point of extremity, something is about to break through. This is advanced prayer. This is nitty gritty, down-to-business "sorting out" time. You are n i t going to emerge unmarked by this, but you will emerge as more of the real you than you have ever been. This is a grace moment.

"Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them ..." - Psalm 69:24, ESV

For me, the "them" are mostly my inner enemies and those "personalityless" personas that immitate life. These, I assign to God for destruction, shaking them off and consigning to God with a "You handle them" sort of prayer that liberates me from their power in the process. These elements of my own character are doomed. They might as well be doomed, in me, now. It is time to move beyond. I am moving toward the eternal embrace.

Thus word comes back to us. Let it encourage your soul as it does mine.

"For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners." - Psalm 69:33, ESV

Psalm 73 (NIV)
A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 69 (NIV)

Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

You, God, know my folly;
    my guilt is not hidden from you.

Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    may those who hope in you
    not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
    may those who seek you
    not be put to shame because of me.
For I endure scorn for your sake,
    and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
    a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
    and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast,
    I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth,
    people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
    and I am the song of the drunkards.

But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
    do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
    from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
    or the depths swallow me up
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me because of my foes.

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
    and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

May the table set before them become a snare;
    may it become retribution and a trap.
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever.
Pour out your wrath on them;
    let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound
    and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Charge them with crime upon crime;
    do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out of the book of life
    and not be listed with the righteous.

But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
    may your salvation, God, protect me.

I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox,
    more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
The poor will see and be glad—
    you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his captive people.

Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion
    and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
    the children of his servants will inherit it,
    and those who love his name will dwell there.