TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. Praying in Hard Times

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Chapter 39  Part II

Praying in Hard Times

Prayer is probably the most prominent positive response to hard times. The Bible shows us a great deal about praying to God in such times. The psalms in particular contain a number of prayers of people faced with great difficulties and suffering, from which we can learn much.

Express Your Anguish to God

See also:

Note that the themes of some these subsections are not applicable or appropriate in all experiences of hard times. See also the introductory comments below on Prayer anxiously speaking of God’s seeming remoteness and of apparent isolation from him . . ., and Prayer despairingly speaking of God as even the source of one’s suffering.

Tell God of your plight and how you feel . . .

Ps 22:11, 14  [David, to God:] Do not remain far away from me, for trouble is near and I have no one to help me.14My strength drains away like water; all my bones are dislocated; my heart is like wax; it melts away inside me.  NET

Ps 25:16-19  [David, to God:] Turn to me and have mercy on me, because I am lonely and hurting. 17My troubles have grown larger; free me from my problems. 18Look at my suffering and troubles, and take away all my sins. 19Look at how many enemies I have! See how much they hate me!  NCV™

As indicated, the above passages are extracts of prayers (of David). This is the case with many of the verses in the remainder of this chapter. To save space this will not be indicated on each occasion.

. . . Pour out your heart to God

Ps 62:8  Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our shelter! (Selah)  NET

1Sam 1:10, 15b, 16b  She [Hannah] was very upset as she prayed to the Lord, and she was weeping uncontrollably.15[Hannah, to Eli the priest:] I have poured out my soul to the Lord. 16… I have spoken from my deep pain and anguish.  NET

To pour out your heart to God involves telling God about all your concerns and feelings. In a sense it is to empty your heart of all its troubles, laying them out before God. Being “very upset” (v. 10) and in “deep pain and anguish” (v. 16), Hannah poured out her soul/heart to God (v. 15) in prayer.

Prayer anxiously speaking of God’s seeming remoteness and of apparent isolation from him . . .

Ps 10:1  Why are you so distant, Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?   GW

Ps 31:22a  I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.”  ESV

Note that the things said in this subsection and following in the last two subsections of this section are not necessarily exemplary in the sense of being things that we ought to say to God amidst hard times. But they do show how one can express anguish to God and suggest that it is acceptable, even productive, for the most part to express such thoughts and emotions.

. . . Consequent longing for God amidst suffering

Ps 42:1-2  As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God! 2I thirst for God, for the living God. I say, “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?”  NET

Prayer despairingly speaking of God as even the source of one’s suffering

Ps 88:6-9a  You place me in the lowest regions of the pit, in the dark places, in the watery depths. 7Your anger bears down on me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (Selah) 8You cause those who know me to keep their distance; you make me an appalling sight to them. I am trapped and cannot get free. 9My eyes grow weak because of oppression.  NET

Prayer desperately asking God how long suffering and God’s apparent inaction or anger is to continue

Ps 13:1-2  How much longer will you forget me, Lord? For ever? How much longer will you hide yourself from me? 2How long must I endure trouble? How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night? How long will my enemies triumph over me?  GNT

Ps 89:46  Lord, how long will this go on? Will you ignore us forever? How long will your anger burn like a fire?  NCV™

 Questions for Section A

Ask God for Help (I): General

See also:

When facing trouble, pray to God . . .

Ps 50:15  [God:] Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!  NET

James 5:13  Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praises.  NET

. . . Cry out to God for help

Ps 18:6  In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried out to my God. From his heavenly temple he heard my voice; he listened to my cry for help.  NET

Ask God for mercy

Ps 6:2a  Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak …  NKJV

Matt 15:22  A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon–possessed!”  NET

Ask God for strength

Ps 119:28  My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!  ESV

Ask God to guide you

Ps 143:8  May I hear about your loyal love in the morning, for I trust in you. Show me the way I should go, because I long for you.  NET

Ps 61:1b-2  Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, …  ESV

The “rock that is higher than I” denotes a place of safety, that seems to be beyond the psalmist’s reach. Quite possibly it alludes to God himself (cf. vv. 3-4).

Ask God to protect you . . .

Ps 16:1  Protect me, O God, for I have taken shelter in you.  NET

. . . and ask God to deliver you

Ps 69:13-14, 18  O Lord, may you hear my prayer and be favorably disposed to me! O God, because of your great loyal love, answer me with your faithful deliverance! 14Rescue me from the mud! Don’t let me sink! Deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep water!18Come near me and redeem me! Because of my enemies, rescue me!  NET

Ask God to hear and answer your prayer

Ps 102:1-2  O Lord, hear my prayer! Pay attention to my cry for help! 2Do not ignore me in my time of trouble! Listen to me! When I call out to you, quickly answer me!  NET

Persist in prayer to God

Ps 88:1  Lord, you are the God who saves me. I cry out to you day and night.  NCV™

 Questions for Section B

Ask God for Help (II): Things to Appeal To

God’s righteousness

Ps 71:2  Because you are righteous, help me and rescue me. Listen to me and save me!  GNT

God’s steadfast love and faithfulness . . .

Ps 69:13b  O God, because of your great loyal love, answer me with your faithful deliverance!  NET

Ps 109:21, 26  But my Sovereign Lord, help me as you have promised, and rescue me because of the goodness of your love.26Help me, O Lord my God; because of your constant love, save me!  GNT

. . . along with God’s mercy

Dan 9:18  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.  ESV

Your devotion to and relationship with God . . .

Ps 86:2-3  Save me from death, because I am loyal to you; save me, for I am your servant and I trust in you. 3You are my God, so be merciful to me; I pray to you all day long.  GNT

Ps 119:94  I am yours, so save me, since I have sought your precepts.  ISV

. . . and God’s promises to his people

Ps 119:170  Listen to my appeal for mercy! Deliver me, as you promised.  NET

The sake of God’s “name”

Ps 79:9-10  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! 10Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!  ESV

Note: Believe that God will answer your prayer – and tell him so

Ps 6:7-9  [David:] My eyes are weak from so much crying; they are weak from crying about my enemies. 8Get away from me, all you who do evil, because the Lord has heard my crying. 9The Lord has heard my cry for help; the Lord will answer my prayer.  NCV™

Ps 17:6  I call to you for you will answer me, O God. Listen to me! Hear what I say!  NET

 Questions for Section C

Praise and Rejoice in God

See also:

Praise and thank God amidst trouble

2Chr 20:21-22  He [Jehoshaphat] met with the people and appointed musicians to play before the Lord and praise his majestic splendor. As they marched ahead of the warriors they said: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his loyal love endures.” 22When they began to shout and praise, the Lord suddenly attacked the Ammonites, Moabites, and men from Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.  NET

Job 1:20-21  Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  ESV

Rejoice in God amidst trouble

Hab 3:17-18  [Habakkuk:] Even though the fig tree does not blossom, and there are no grapes on the vines; even if the olive harvest fails, and the fields produce nothing edible; even if the flock is snatched from the sheepfold, and there is no herd in the stalls— 18as for me, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will find my joy in the God of my deliverance.  ISV

Determine and promise to praise and thank God for deliverance

Ps 43:1, 4  O God, declare me innocent, and defend my cause against the ungodly; deliver me from lying and evil people!4Then I will go to your altar, O God; you are the source of my happiness. I will play my harp and sing praise to you, O God, my God.  GNT

Ps 35:17b-18  [David:] Rescue me from their destructive attacks; guard my life from the young lions! 18Then I will give you thanks in the great assembly; I will praise you before a large crowd of people!  NET

Praise and thank God when he answers prayer made in hard times

Ps 34:1-4  [David:] I will praise the Lord at all times; my mouth will continually praise him. 2I will boast in the Lord; let the oppressed hear and rejoice! 3Magnify the Lord with me! Let’s praise his name together! 4I sought the Lord’s help and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  NET

Ps 107:19-21  They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles. 20He sent them an assuring word and healed them; he rescued them from the pits where they were trapped. 21Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people!  NET

Rejoice in God’s deliverance from hard times

Joel 2:20-23  [God, to the people of Judah:] “I will remove the northerners [locusts] from you, driving them to a barren and desolate land— the front toward the Dead Sea and the back toward the Mediterranean. Their stench will rise, and their stinking odor will ascend, because they have done great things.” 21“Stop being afraid, O land! Rejoice and be glad, because the Lord will do great things. 22Stop being afraid, O beasts of the field, because the desert pastures will bloom, the trees will bear their fruit, and the fig tree and vine will deliver their wealth. 23And so be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, because he has given you the right amount of early rain, and he will cause the rain to fall for you, both the early rain and the later rain as before.  ISV

The “northerners” (v. 20) refers to an incredibly great plague of locusts that had brought desolation to the land.

 Questions for Section D

Epilogue: God Does Respond to Suffering and Cries

God is near us in hard times and when we pray

Ps 34:18  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed.  NCV™

Deut 4:7  [Moses, to the Israelites:] In fact, what other great nation has a god so near to them like the Lord our God whenever we call on him?  NET

God does not ignore the suffering and cries of the afflicted

Ps 22:24  He does not neglect the poor or ignore their suffering; he does not turn away from them, but answers when they call for help.  GNT

God comforts his people in hard times

Ps 23:4  [David, to God:] Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  ESV

2Cor 1:3-4  [Paul, to believers:] Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  NET

God hears the cries of the godly and rescues them . . .

Ps 55:16-18, 22  [David:] As for me, I will call out to God, and the Lord will deliver me. 17During the evening, morning, and noontime I will lament and moan, and he will hear me. 18He will rescue me and protect me from those who attack me, even though they greatly outnumber me.22Throw your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the godly to be upended.  NET

Ps 91:14-15  The Lord says, “Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he is loyal to me. 15When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him when he is in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him honor.  NET

. . . God has compassion on them, saving and blessing them

Lam 3:22, 32  The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end.32Though he causes us grief, he then has compassion on us according to the abundance of his loyal kindness.  NET

Zec 10:6a  [God:] I will make the people of Judah strong; I will rescue the people of Israel. I will have compassion on them and bring them all back home.  GNT

Further testimony to God answering prayers in suffering and trouble

Ps 10:17-18  Lord, you have heard the request of the oppressed; you make them feel secure because you listen to their prayer. 18You defend the fatherless and oppressed, so that mere mortals may no longer terrorize them.  NET

Ps 34:4, 6  [David:] I sought the Lord’s help and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.6This oppressed man cried out and the Lord heard; he saved him from all his troubles.  NET

Further specific examples of God answering prayers in suffering and trouble

Judg 3:9, 15a  When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he raised up a deliverer for the Israelites who rescued them. His name was Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. … 15When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he raised up a deliverer for them. His name was Ehud son of Gera the Benjaminite, a left–handed man.  NET

Acts 12:5, 11  So Peter was kept in prison, but those in the church were earnestly praying to God for him.11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting to happen.”  NET

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians