In the Office: Agony and a Prayer Accepted

In the psalm from today’s Daily Office, the poet lifts up to God his cry of desperation:

“Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:2-3)

These words capture my attention today, largely because a friend in ministry is facing surgery this morning to fix a problem with a disc in his back that has been causing agony for some time. Church work has plenty of challenges of its own; so I can only imagine how difficult his recent months have been as he has wrestled with chronic pain. I am praying, therefore, that the Lord will use today’s procedure to bring him the relief he seeks.

Along with my ministerial colleague, of course, I know quite a few other people who could echo this cry. There are members of my family and members of my church whose “bones are in agony” as they deal with deteriorating knees and hips and shoulders and backs. And there are so many others whose “soul is in deep anguish” as they confront loss and uncertainty and the kind of constant pain – both physical and emotional – that makes them cry out, “How long, LORD, how long?”

Isn’t it good to know, therefore, that our Heavenly Father doesn’t ask us to “endure stoically” the pains and heartaches of life. Trusting God doesn’t mean that we’re forbidden to speak the truth about the agony we feel. Quite the contrary, the LORD invites us to pour out our hearts to Him. And as Pastor John Ortberg suggests:

“This is what makes these prayers so powerful–and an important part of our spiritual life. When we are passionately honest with God, when we are not indulging in self-pity or martyrdom but are genuinely opening ourselves up to God, when we complain in hope that God can still be trusted–then we are asking God to create the kind of condition in our heart that will make resting in his presence possible again. And God will come.”

John Ortberg, God Is Closer than You Think

After expressing his agony, the psalmist receives the assurance of God’s presence:

“The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

I am praying for my friend Mark today, along with so many others. Would you say a prayer for them, too? And may God help all of us to bring even our agony before Him – trusting in His love, knowing that our prayer will be accepted, and looking forward to the healing that only He can give.

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