Psalm 44 reflection
Rachel Bray, Local Missional Leader at St Philip & St Paul with Wesley, Southport, responds to Psalm 44
Have you ever struggled to pray?
At the start of lockdown back in March, I found myself struggling to pray.
My lovely mum had recently died and as we entered lockdown, my husband & I decided we would need to live as 2 separate households in order to shield one of our sons with a serious underlying health condition. There was and still is a lot of anxiety around. It was hard to find words to express how I was feeling.
I found myself turning to the Psalms. Using them led me back into praying. Over these last weeks and months, on numerous occasions, words from the Psalms have leapt out from the pages of the Bible as I connect with words and songs spoken and sung thousands of years ago – just as relevant to today as then.
A few weeks ago, I was preparing to lead Morning Prayer by Zoom for a group from my church and Psalm 44 was set for the day. I wasn’t particularly familiar with it so I sat with it for a while. What a lot of different things are going on for the Psalmist here. Hats off to him (because it will almost certainly have been a him!) for his ability to express how he was feeling, giving us this mirror into his soul. This psalm is full of emotion and passion, of hope and fear, and doubt, and longing, and confusion, anger, and even by the end desperation.
Like many psalms there is a rhythm and pattern to it. Sometimes knowing what that is can also help us in how we hear it.
Psalm 44 has 5 sections.
In verses 1-3 The Psalmist begins by remembering the history of his people – his cultural and faith heritage, stories passed on to him by his family and community about what amazing things God had done in the past.
• What examples would you give of God’s faithfulness in the past?
In VV4-8 He moves from saying We to I. You are MY King and MY God. It’s not just the faith of his elders. It’s personal too. He has known God act. Faith is individual but it is very much communal too. We’re having to reflect on how we express being a faith community when we can’t meet as we did aren’t we?
• How do you feel about that? Can you put it into words?
The tone changes dramatically from major to minor in verses 9-16, as the Psalmist laments what is going on around him. Where is God he asks, why have things changed? Victory has become defeat, and his community has become scattered. He’s really struggling with his feelings. He is depressed and anxious.
This turns to confusion in verses 17-22 and he questions God about what is happening to his faith community – he doesn’t understand what or why these things are happening. We thought we were being faithful followers so why is this all happening? Where are you God?
• Have you ever thought that? Wondered where God is and why certain things are happening?
• It’s so good to know we are not alone in our questions isn’t it?
Most Psalms end on an upbeat note but not this. He builds up to a real rant! He shouts at God – Awake O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Help us.
• Do you ever cry out to God to act?
• Have you ever shouted out loud to him? Maybe we should become less British and do this more!
So no neat ending...sometimes that’s exactly where we can feel in our conversation with God isn’t it? How reassuring.
Why not write your own Psalm today? Start with remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, what he means to you, and then pour out to him whatever is on your heart & don’t hold back, shout even if it helps – hopes, fears, confusion, faith, doubt, desperation & longings – whatever is going on for you, God is there wanting to listen to you as his precious child. And if today you are struggling to pray, my hope and prayer is that as you meditate on the Psalms you will find a way back into prayer through the words of the Psalmists.
Psalms Summer Reading Challenge
Join Archdeacon Simon in this year’s Summer Challenge reading the book of Psalms together. Sign up to this course and you will receive weekly emails encouraging you in your reading. The Psalms are the hymnbook and the prayerbook of the Temple, and of the Church. In these 150 songs the Psalmist explores the whole range of human experience, with all its highs and lows, of human life lived in the presence of God, and sometimes the experience of the apparent absence of God too. Find out more about the challenge and how you can get involved.Course 19 PartsTotal current bookmarks 13