Praying Psalm 44 (Part 1)

Bob RoaneLoving and Trusting God, Prayer, Praise, Worship

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love. (Psalm 44:23-26)

Psalm 44 doesn’t have a happy ending. Sometimes our prayers are like that. Psalm 44 begins with remembering what the Lord has done in the past for His people and ends begging for His help again. God’s Old Testament believers had already gathered to pray on multiple occasions, but they didn’t see any results yet. The Lord seems to be asleep. We all know that our God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) never sleeps or slumbers. He’s awake 24/7.1 But His delays in answering feels to us like He’s asleep or on vacation. In Romans 8, Paul quotes from Psalm 44 to remind Jesus’ followers that suffering is nothing new for believers.

I won’t cover all the details of Psalm 44, but draw out some of its big ideas for praying together.

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We Pray Together to Remind Each Other of the Lord’s Past Victories

In verses 1-3, God’s people recalled His triumphs in the time of Joshua. God drove out the enemies and planted the Jews in the Promised Land and made them flourish. It wasn’t their strength or smarts that made them prevail. It was the Lord who intervened and won the battles with His mighty hand and His outstretched arm because His love endures forever.2

The Old Testament writers recalled the Exodus at least one hundred times after it happened and asked God to help them again in different circumstances.3 In the New Testament books of Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation, the writers keep on recalling Jesus’ victories, asking Him to rescue them again. Paul says: The most important thing in the world is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.4 Paul reminds us that Jesus is still alive right now, so we can and must ask Him to help us again.

In Deuteronomy, the Lord says: Be careful, watch yourselves closely, and don’t forget what I’ve done in the past. Don’t let what I have done fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach the Scriptures to your children and grandchildren after them.5 We are to keep on passing on what the Lord has done for us in Bible times and since. That helps us trust and obey Him in our present circumstances, no matter how hard.

The Bible puts emphasis on remembering because God’s people can feel abandoned, afraid, and alone in this hostile world. The Lord will never, never, never forget us, but we can forget Him and wander. When we pray together, we remind each other that God has been faithful, even when we have not been.6 He has loved us, even when we’ve left the love we had for Christ at first.7 The Lord has helped us through many crises and steered us through many difficulties. He has forgiven us and purified us from unrighteousness.8 God has rescued us from the pits, and walked with us through fires and waters and all kinds of hazards. He’s strengthened us, helped us, and caused us to stand, upheld by His righteous, omnipotent hand.

Notice the first and last stanzas of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past:”

Stanza #1 Stanza #7

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
So be our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.9

Only the third line in each stanza is different. The hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 90 and closes asking the Lord to demonstrate His mercies again, to show that He is our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend! That He is our Helper, Hope, Shelter, Guard, and Eternal Home. That’s a great way to pray.

We Pray Together, Asking God to Do it Again

Verses 1-3 use the past tense, telling history. Verses 4-8 use present tense, trusting the Lord to help us again. Verse 4 says: You are our King and God, who wins victories and scatters enemies. We don’t trust in ourselves. We are weak and helpless on our own. But you can do it again, Lord.

Notice the play on words in Psalm 44:
V. 01-You acted for us in days long ago. (Past tense)
V. 16-We live in disgrace all day long. (Present tense)
V. 22-We face death all day long. (Present tense)
V. 08-We praise and boast about you all day long. (Present tense)

We don’t usually pray just once and then everything gets all better. This Psalm is about wrestling with the Lord together in prayer. Our troubles don’t usually all go away right away. So we hang on to the Lord together in prayer, asking Him to intervene again.

It reminds me of a song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. The chorus says:

You move mountains. You cause walls to fall.
With your power, you perform miracles. There is nothing that’s impossible.
And we’re standing here only because You made a way.10

Brothers and sisters, we only made it this far because God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) preserved us. And that’s the only way we’ll make it to the end of our lives, to the end of the journey. We can be confident, beloved, that God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.11

Remember in Exodus 17, Joshua trusted God and led the Lord’s people into battle. Moses stood on a hilltop nearby, trusting God and asking Him to intervene to save His people. As Moses’ raised arms got tired and sagged, the enemies began to win. So Aaron and Hur stood on either side, holding up Moses’ hands in prayer and God’s people prevailed. Charles Stanley says: In order to succeed in the Christian life, we need the help and support of others. No believer has ever been called to “go it alone” in our walk of faith, we need each other. I’ll quote from Spurgeon again. He says: “To strengthen a prayer-meeting, is as good a work as to preach a sermon.”12

To be continued

Notes (various translations): 1 Psalm 121:3-4.     2 Psalm 136:12.     3 The Old Testament: Its Claims and Its Critics by Oswald T Allis, p. 267.   4 1 Cor 15:3-4.     5 Deut 4:9.     6 2 Tim 2:13.     7 Rev 2:4.     8 1 John 1:9.     9 Original Trinity Hymnal (1961), stanza #7 modernized.     10 “Made a Way” by Travis Greene.     11 Phil 1:6; 1 Cor 1:8; Psalm 138:8; 2 Peter 2:9.     12 From His book Only A Prayer Meeting.