Psalm 13 – How Long, O Lord

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

We are studying the Psalms to learn how to pray. Psalm 13 is one of the best models of how to pray when we have pressing concerns. It is like a small gold mine of instruction in how to pray when burdened or concerned.

Bold Praying

The Book of Hebrews encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4.16). The speaker in Psalm 13 models how we can approach God with boldness.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
(Psalm 13.1-2)

Psalm 13 gives us permission to complain to God in a very bold and direct manner. Four times in two verses, the speaker asks, “How long?”

The speaker expresses pain and sorrow over what appears to the absence of God in a serious time of need. Yes, enemies seems to assault the speaker, but the greatest problem is God’s seeming distance.

My Hebrew professor in seminary was a gentle, good humored, and deeply spiritual man. He related to a small group of us the story of his experience with God and the problem of his wife’s cancer. He said, “We first prayed for her to healed, and she wasn’t. When her pain was so acute, we prayed for God to take her home, and he didn’t.”

The anguish of my professor has been told to me in various ways over fifty years. Godly people who have fervently prayed, but have felt the apparent absence of God know the pain of the speaker’s, “How long” in Psalm 13.

Consider, Answer, Give Light

The complaint of the opening verses leads to a bold appeal for help.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
(Psalm 13.3-4)

When some people experience difficulties, they say in effect: “I tried God and he didn’t help.” At that point in their lives, they make a choice to walk away from God, many never to return.

Psalm 13 presents an alternative to simply walking away from God. It gives us permission to be honest and to tell God exactly what we think. The speaker provides us words to express our need for God’s help. If he doesn’t help, it will be “lights out,” death.

If God doesn’t help, the enemies of God can rejoice and claim that “there is no help for him in God” (Psalm 3.2). However, if God considers and answers this prayer, he will show the enemies God’s power and glory.

Trust in God’s Grace

We don’t know what happened between verse 4 and verse 5, but clearly God changed the circumstances for the speaker.

But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13.5-6)

Returning to the story of my Hebrew professor, God did not heal his wife. However, God drew him into a place of trust. Even though he grieved the loss of his wife of many years, he was able trust that God’s love is always constant and reliable. He rejoiced in the goodness of God, even though he lost the love of his life.

Praying This Psalm

As you use this Psalm in your prayer time, here are two thoughts that may help.

(1) The prayers that we read in the Bible give us permission to complain to God. Many of the Psalm are very honest in their expression of disappointment and pain at God’s seeming absence during times of difficulty.

Even when you are complaining to God, you still have the door open to him. If you walk away from God in disappointment and anger, you will have closed the door to his presence. It is much easier for God to help you, when you still are open to him.

One of my favorite authors lost his faith as a child. When his father died, he decided that there was no God. He determined to live under his own power and abilities. The program of AA brought him back to faith, after spending nearly two decades away from God. What would have happened, if instead he had brought his anger to God and kept at it until God answered? I believe his faith would have remained and it wouldn’t have taken him twenty years to re-connect with God.

(2) It is okay to grieve and be angry when trouble comes to your life. The speaker in this Psalm trusted in God’s steadfast love and showed it by complaining to him. No doubt, when we express anger and disappointment to God, we are demonstrating our faith.

As God works in our lives, we will be move from complaint to praise. It often doesn’t happen on our time schedule, but as we stay with God, he will enable us to praise, once again.

May We Pray for You?

Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team who will pray for you. Please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and pass on your request to the prayer team.

2 Comments

  1. I’m not sure anything “happened” between verses 4 and 5, except that David, even while taking his complaint to God, still knew that God was working. Even as he felt abandoned, he knew God was in control. Even as he grieved, he knew his salvation was secure. Even as he hurt, he knew God loved him. And so he sang.

    Over the past 25-30 years, this Psalm is one I have turned to over and over again. Many, many times, even as tears dropped on the page, I followed David’s lead and began to sing. Through painful divorce, rebellious teens, false accusations, deceptions, a daughter lost in addiction, financial loss….praying through this Psalm has built faith and trust in our loving Father – into a “peace that passes understanding” – so that in 2020, when faced with the loss of my sweet husband, I could jump right to verses 5 and 6. Because of hardships that God has carried me through, I can rest in His love. In His salvation – both mine and Mike’s. So that even in this deepest loss, I can sing of His faithfulness. I can say in confidence – it is well with my soul. Thank You, Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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