Calling on God

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Psalm 40:11-17 is a typical example of an individual hymn of lament.  These psalms of lament usually have five distinct elements that are still relevant today for our prayers of calling on God in situations where we need God’s help.  (1) It starts with an invocation in which the psalmist cries out to God to listen:  “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord” (40:11).  (2) That is usually followed by a specific complaint in which the psalmist tells God what is wrong:  “For troubles without number surround me, my sins have overtaken me” (40:12).  (3) Then follows a petition in which the psalmist tells God what he wants God to do about it:  “Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me” (40:13-15).  (4) This is usually followed by an expression of trust in which the psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness in the past with the hope that God will do that again:  “You are my help and my deliverer” (40:17).  (5) And finally it ends with an outburst of praise in which God’s goodness is celebrated:  “may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you” (40:16).

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