Psalm 102—A Prayer for Help, and an Answer that Sometimes Comes Through the Voice of Others

Psalm 102—A Prayer for Help, and an Answer that Sometimes Comes Through the Voice of Others

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Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to Thee!
Do not hide Thy face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline Thy ear to me; answer me speedily when I call!
Psalm 102:1-2
 
“I have seen enough” was a phrase a dearly departed friend used to use.  She used it at a volleyball tournament when her granddaughter’s team was hopelessly losing and she decided to leave early.  In fact, it actually became a source of laughter between us.  Because she started using it often and in funny ways.
 
For many people though, this phrase is not funny at all.  And it doesn’t describe a bad day at the ballfield, but their very life.  There are probably times in every life when we all feel like using this phrase, not because we want our life to end, but because we could sure use a change.  
 
Psalm 102 describes some pretty graphic images of a life that’s really on the brink:
 
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is smitten like grass, and withered; I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning my bones cleave to my flesh.
I am like a vulture of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I like awake, I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me, those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink.  Psalm 102:3-9  
 
These are all pretty bad images to think of—burning, withering, lack of food, loneliness, being taunted, etc.  But they are not as bad as the last image painted in this Psalm:
 
Because of Thy indignation and anger; for Thou hast taken me up and thrown me away. (102:10)  
 
The worse indignation and pain is a total sense that God is absent and we are abandoned.  That is enough to send anyone over the edge.  Of course God is never absent and we are never abandoned.  God may seem silent.  God may seem distant.  At these times, we have to ask ourselves is it God that is distant from us, or is it we who are distant from Him?  Because while God may seem distant, He is never absent.  He is always near.  
 
God’s voice can be heard in many places.  We know that God speaks directly to us in many ways—in Scripture, in nature, in thoughts that come into our hearts.  God also speaks to us through other people.  Since each of us is created in the image and likeness of God, we not only carry God’s goodness within each of us, but we also carry God’s voice.  When we speak words of love and encouragement, we become like God’s voice for someone else.  And for the person who feels like they’ve had enough, the “voice of God” through our voices has the power to pull someone back from the brink of despair.  We are reminded in Matthew 25:31-46, that when we do something for the least of God’s brethren, it is as if we do it for God Himself.  And that not only includes feeding, clothing, welcoming and visiting, as are specifically pointed out in that passage, it includes listening, encouraging and helping.
 
Psalm 102 does quickly change course, and we are assured that God is present:
 
But Thou, O Lord, art enthroned forever; Thy name endures to all generations. (102:12)
 
Indeed, God is enthroned forever.  His power never ends.  No crisis or pandemic can defeat God.  
 
Thou wilt arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. (102:13)  
 
And it’s okay to cry out to the Lord, “I have seen enough, please make Yourself more known to me. Show me a sign of Your favor, or at least of Your presence.”  
 
For the Lord will build up Zion, He will appear in His glory; He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication. (102:17)
 
We may wonder aloud why we are on the course we are on.  It may not make sense.  This whole Covid thing doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Life was going well and now it’s ground to a halt in many ways.  The amount of hate and unrest that come from many sides does not make sense.  This is not how we are supposed to act.  And there are many more examples.  This is the time we pray that God will build us up, to withstand the pain and to eventually heal from it.  
 
The Psalm ends with a promise:
 
The children of Thy servants shall dwell secure; their posterity shall be established before Thee. (102:28)
 
In Biblical times, this referred to the descendants of the people living a posterity that was secured by the Lord.  We are not told if this is material posterity—in this case it probably is.  Psalms like this were written as the Israelites were under attack, persecution, and exile.  So these verses become promises and reassurances that it won’t always be like this for God’s people.  In modern times, we might interpret this as material posterity, in other words, the day will come when we’ll take off our masks, embrace on another and resume life as we knew it.  Whether it means that or not, for sure there is assurance of spiritual posterity.  We can prosper spiritually at any time, certainly when the crisis has ended, but even in the midst of it.  
 
The most encouraging words of this Psalm are it’s very first words, which will be our prayer today:
 
Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to Thee!
Do not hide Thy face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline Thy ear to me; answer me speedily when I call!
Psalm 102:1-2
 
Because even in the worst of times, God hears our prayer.  And sometimes His face and His voice can be found in the faces and voices of others.  If you feel like “I have seen enough,” do not give up.  Keep talking to God.  And if you are doing well, be the voice of God for others.

The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.

These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0