A Prayer Guide
1. Read psalm 142 Aloud
2. A Guide to Understanding Psalm 142
Psalm 142 is one of the loneliest prayers in all the bible. In it David prays, “No one cares about me” (v4). This might be the very worst feeling a person can have. With the support of friends and counselors we can find our way through anxiety, grief and depression. But when we feel alone, it feels like there’s no way out. In a time where many say we are seeing an “epidemic” of loneliness, God’s inspired prayerbook helps us see what God wants to do with our feelings of loneliness. The Psalm was written by David when he had to flee from King Saul and found himself with nowhere else to go and nowhere to turn (see 1 Sam 21 and 22). He took refuge in a cave and prayed this prayer.
God Hears the Lonely: The very fact that Psa 142 is a part of God’s inspired prayer book means He doesn’t just hear the prayers of those with strong faith - he hears and welcomes the prayers of those whose faith is weak and feel all alone. The first thing God wants us to do when we are lonely is to tell him about it. He wants us to know he hears us. Why? Being heard is the first step out of loneliness. By using the 3rd person in verses 1-2, David tells God that he’s praying but still feels so distant from him. He tells God how people feel distant – he’s got no right-hand man, no one safe, no one who cares about him (v4). He tells God how trapped he feels in his loneliness. He says he can’t trust anyone (v3). It’s like he’s trapped in the emotional prison of loneliness(v7). In our loneliness, we need to know that even when God feels distant, people feel distant and we feel trapped, God hears us. He always hears the fragile prayers of the lonely.
God’s Gift to the Lonely– But the Psalm teaches that God does more than hear the lonely. God has a special gift he wants give to the lonely. It’s something God can only really give us us in our loneliness. What is it? The story behind the prayer points us to the answer. God answered David’s prayer in the cave very dramatically. He brought over 400 people to meet him, pledge their support to him and provide the community he longed for. But why did God allow David to have this Psalm 142 experience before he gave him the gift of human support and friendship? He had a greater gift for David in the cave. It was the gift of Himself. The gift of His perfect friendship, love and support. Verse 5 is the turning point in the Psalm. Here David takes a hold of God. He reaches out in faith to receive the gift, “You are my shelter. You are my portion.” He doesn’t ask God for the gifts of shelter or a portion in others. He receives God Himself as his shelter and only portion in life. Our loneliness can reveal to us ways we’ve been missing this gift.
God’s Promise to the Lonely - To all the lonely—reach out in faith and say to God, “You are my shelter, You are my portion”, Psa 142 has a promise. We will come out of the cave 1) knowing him better (“praising his name”) and 2) God will restore to us the gift of human community– “the righteous will gather around me because you deal generously with me” (v7).
In order for us to hear and to the hold the promise in this Psalm we need to see that this is not just David’s’ prayer in the cave for himself, this is Jesus’ prayer on the cross for us. On the cross, Jesus prayed the loneliest prayers of the Bible (ie, Psa 69 ---I waited for sympathy there was none, for comforters but found no one Instead they gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink; Psa 22 “My God, My God Why have you forsaken me?”) This is good news for the lonely. We can’t pray our way out of loneliness, but God gives us a way out when we hear and hold to His promise. On the cross, Jesus was forsaken by the Father, so that we would never be. Anything and everything that separates us from God was completely and forever removed - our sin, our shame, our guilt, our unbelief, and death itself. Jesus experienced the greatest loneliness possible so we could hear and hold to the promise - I will never leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). When we hold on to this promise, we can gather back into community with people for the right reasons and with the right expectations. We gather with others to point them to God’s safety and sufficiency. We receive the support and friendship we need without asking people to be God for us.
A Guide to Praying Psalm 142
REFLECT – How is Psalm 142 teaching you or how has God taught you one of these lessons of loneliness?
Loneliness can reveal how much of our faith is really personal and how much is putting on an act for others. Much of our conversation about faith and God happens in the 3rd person. We talk about God. We know things about him. So much of our God-talk is us trying to impress people, fit it or say what we think we are supposed to. But when it’s just us and God, and we have nowhere else to turn, we are given the chance to start to talk to God, to know him. It’s a chance to drop the religious act and develop a personal faith. If we don’t really have a personal prayer life – our loneliness gives us the opportunity to make our faith personal in honest and real conversation with God.
Loneliness can reveal how we’ve been looking to people to be for us what only God can be for us. Just when David thought he had no one to turn to, he realized that what he really needed could only be found in God. In a sinful and broken world, people will betray us, disappoint us and misunderstand us. Only God can know us fully and love us completely. Much of our relationship disappointment comes from us trying to be God for others or expecting others to be God for us. The feeling of loneliness gives us the opportunity to bring our relational hurt/disappointment to God and say to him – You are my shelter and my portion.
Tell God about your feelings of loneliness (v1-4)
Does God feel distant? Do people feel distant? How do you feel trapped? Tell God how you have been feeling any or all these things. He hears these prayers.
Take a hold of God’s Gift to the Lonely (v5)
Confess any ways you have distanced yourself from God by accepting a “3rd person” relationship with him. Confess any ways you have used God to impress other people (by appearing spiritual, religious or good).
Receive the gift of God Himself by telling him
“You are my shelter” – Thank God that He knows you fully – all of your sin, brokenness and need – and he “lets” you in for refuge anyway. Thank God that he is always safe. Remember that he never turns us away.
You are my portion – Thank God that He is enough. If all you have in life is him, you have everything you need. Tell him He is all you need.
Hear and hold to God’s Promise to the Lonely (v6-7)
Rehearse and remember the gospel in prayer– Thank Jesus for how he descended into the deepest and darkest loneliness so you never will have to. Thank Jesus for how he was forsaken so you can hold to this promise from God, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.
Praise God for all the ways he’s pursued, supported and provided for you. Tell him you want to praise him more for the ways he meets you in your loneliness.
Thank Him for his promise to gather you back into community. Ask him to shape you into the kind of person that gathers with others to point them to Jesus.