“O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.” —Henri Nouwen

A Passion for God


Psalm 79:1-9

By Harry C. Kiely

The heartache of tragic loss is an experience common to most of us. A severe family crisis related to job loss, the sudden death of a loved one, the revelation of infidelity, a devastating flood­ these kinds of trials push us to the wall and make us cry out. In those circumstances, how shall we pray? Dare we come to God and bare our true feelings, even feelings that God has in some way let us down?

This psalm teaches us that we live our lives entirely in God. In all events, whether trivial or momentous, God, though hidden, is nevertheless present. So it is entirely appropriate to lament before God our severest distresses, as this psalmist does after an enemy has invaded the Holy City, wrecked the Temple, killed the priests, and even the king. He even holds God accountable for these events: “How long, 0 LORD? Will you be angry forever?” Can we imagine praying this way in Sunday worship?

Unfortunately, in much of our praying we mistake politeness for reverence and thus withhold our honest feelings from our private and corporate prayer life. We pray as if God were a stranger who lives only on the periphery of our lives.

For this psalmist, however, the God-relationship is deep and enduring. Bringing his hurt, disillusionment, and anger to God reflects a total trust in divine grace. Thus his praying leads through the desert of rage and despair to the oasis of supplication:

Help us, 0 God our Savior, for the glory of your name; Deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.

In this prayer he comes to the point of accepting in Israel’s name the responsibility the nation bears for the present devastation. Such honest prayer becomes the foundation for Israel humbly to accept God’s judgment and to set out on a new future bonded to the One who brought Israel into being.


Lord, you know my deepest distress. Lead me to repentance and to trust in your deliverance. Amen.

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