The psalms are prayers of people who regarded God as a friend. There was no need to hide their true feelings when they were in his presence. And so when they prayed, they complained, they questioned, they cajoled. At first sight, some of the things they said to God surprise us. We have a way of wanting to be on our best behavior when we pray and keep a stiff upper lip. This was not the approach taken by the psalms. If things were bad, then there was no point in glossing over the badness in order to impress God. There was no misfortune or misery which God would not understand.

So they meant what they said when they talked about being wronged, hurt, even rejected. God was not above and beyond all this. It was his world and he held the reins. The famous Psalm 22 prayed by Jesus on the cross is a good illustration of this:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? You are far from my plea and the cry of my distress. O my God, I call by day and you give no reply; I call by night and I find no peace." Psalm 22:1-2

If the prayer had ended there or simply continued in that vein, then it might have been open to the criticism that it was indulging in self-pity or bitterness. But it did not end there. After they had said how badly they felt, they were able to step outside of themselves and look to God. There followed invariably a protestation of confidence in the Almighty. Contrary to appearances he had not left them. He could never abandon them. His help was sure to come. Nothing was more certain than that.

"Yet you, O God, are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you set them free. When they cried to you, they escaped. In you they trusted and never in vain." Psalm 22:3-5

With this renewed trust in God, they went on to make their petitions. This they did in a restrained way. Their requests were made in general terms. There was no need to suggest to God what he might do. They were sure that he would do something and they could safely leave to his wisdom the choice of what was to be done.

It is interesting to see that in these psalms a process is going on which soothes the human spirit. People who start off their prayer with their spirits at a low ebb work through to a trust in God which results in a restrained but confident plea for God's continuing protection.

"O Lord, do not leave me alone, my strength, make haste to help me! Rescue my soul from the sword." Psalm 22:19-20

The Prodigal God
A Story Of Two Brothers
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