Hey God – I’ve Been Praying about This for a Long Time! (Psalm 88)

Any of us who have known the Lord for an extended time have had the experience of wondering why certain prayers that we have genuinely expressed perhaps even for years – prayers that would seem to be “no-brainers” for a loving and faithful heavenly father to answer – go on and on without any apparent divine acknowledgement.

It may be related to a physical ailment from which we’ve suffered for even decades. It could be about the heartbreak of a loved one who makes bad choices or is an addict. Perhaps it is related to life circumstances and the seeming inability to ever get ahead and not have to deal with worry and pending calamity.

If nothing else, it teaches us that this world is never going to satisfy and that we should have a hunger for a heavenly home and the redemption of all things – including our miserable weak bodies.

We should be reminded as well that God has bigger plans than providing for our creature comforts and sense of propriety about what He should do and when.

One of the most wonderfully instructive stories I have ever heard came from our supported missionary in Thailand – Dean Overholt. He spent his childhood and youth summers working hard on his grandfather’s farm. When he went to Penn State as a wrestler, he had to also figure out something to do academically – after all, it was a college! Not knowing what to study, he chose agriculture. After a while he met Christ, eventually at some later point going into missions work. There was a lot of catching up to do about growing in biblical knowledge and leadership, etc.

For many years Dean wondered why God did not use his life more efficiently – as those summers on the farm and the Penn State educational years were worth nothing to the work of missions in Asia. Why did God not get him saved sooner … and also pushed through that time of life quicker in order to have more time for ministry impact?

Well… then the famous tsunami hit in the South Pacific, including Thailand. Dean was thrust into the task of leading the entire effort to rebuild a village, plant a church, and get hundreds of people back on their feet. After that massive work was done and he looked back on all that had been accomplished and all who came to know Christ through it, he said, “Every skill I needed to do that ministry came from my grandfather’s farm and my agricultural education.”

God knew. God always knows. God knows your unanswered prayer, and if it is unanswered, there is a bigger reason than you can see … at least for now. But God wants you to keep praying and trusting Him. That is the essence of the famous parable in Luke 18:

18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

The application here is not that if you pester God long enough, he will eventually get so worn out that his arm will be twisted into giving you what you want. The lesson is that you should continue to pray and be persistent. And if an unjust judge can “come through” with a need, surely a loving Father is not going to ignore a request that is resultant in your ultimate detriment … keep praying.

Here is Psalm 88… written by a Temple musician. It expresses the idea that his unanswered prayer and pending demise will put him into a position where he is unable to praise God or be of service in any way. Another thought I have when reading this most depressing and sad of Psalms is that we are wonderfully blessed to have the knowledge of the victory of Christ over death and the certain resurrection. That was not something known at the time this was written …

Psalm 88

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

1 Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.