How to Pray | December 16, 2018

December 16, 2018

Danny Cordray ’21

PSALMS 25, 150; ISAIAH 13:1-13; HEBREWS 12:18-29; JOHN 3:22-30

In the twenty-fifth psalm, David cries out in weakness and defeat, imploring God to help him and to forgive him for his sins. This psalm is not merely the historical speech of an exiled king in a desert. It fits in our mouths as well, a model for prayer in times of hardship. David, as we should, addresses God as someone he can rely on, as his ever-present refuge and helper. And David approaches God without pride. He does not speak as one who deserves to be delivered out of hardship; instead, his prayer reminds him of all his many sins. David therefore does not address God as someone requesting his due, or as a semi-disinterested observer asking God to set the world right, but as a humble supplicant begging forgiveness and asking for God’s pity. The only virtues David cites are his trust in and fear of God.
On the contrary, when I have run into troubles in this semester—after a bad grade on a midterm or after family griefs—I turn to God in a fundamentally different way than David. In times of trouble I do not start by turning to God; I trust in myself, my ability to work harder, and I look to God (if at all) mostly for consolation. In part I do this because I do not trust in God as David did. Moreover, and far worse, when I do ask the Lord for help in times of trouble, I am far more aware of my need—why I deserve at least to be pitied—than of my unworthiness of God’s help; my sins, if I even remember them in more than a general sense, seem irrelevant to God’s help. Perhaps that is because, especially earlier this semester, I had never known such grief that I might throw myself upon God as David did. Perhaps only greater griefs could lead me to see that I too need to ask forgiveness for my sins before I should dare to ask for help and consolation. Going forward, I will try to remember in all my difficulties, from the great tragedies to the minor setbacks, to trust in and to ask forgiveness from God. After all, the most important things in life—the great blessings, and loves, and of course death—are well beyond my control. And God is a God of mercy.