Psalm 130 is one of the seven penitential psalms. The others are Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102 and 143. That label doesn’t come from scripture itself. In our study of the Bible’s songbook, we recognized several guiding themes in each of them. There is an acknowledgment of the consequence of sin. If you recall the background of Psalm 51, for example, you can see how that shapes the psalm.
Not all seven deal with personal sin, though. But there is always an awareness of it.
Psalm 130 begins in the depths. That is where the psalmist has cried out to God. In this deep place of pain, the psalmist has also come to know it’s worth calling upon the Lord. The order of service for a funeral in The United Methodist Church includes a reading of Psalm 130. Think about how deep the sorrow and pain we experience upon the passing of someone we love. Our faith tells us God hears us in that place.
So, the psalmist knows God hears the voice of those in need. The Lord doesn’t merely hear with an open ear. God hears with a compassionate heart, ready to bring peace and healing. We’re also reminded of God’s forgiveness. In this short prayer, we see God is active in prayer.
Well, what about us?
What’s our role in prayer?
Most people don’t have a problem throwing up a prayer need in church. We call that popcorn prayer. Once we’ve lifted a prayer, then what? What activity belongs to us?
The psalmist answers this question for us.
We wait. We watch and we hope.
On the surface, those don’t seem like active practices. But they are! We don’t sit around and wait, watch and hope. As we continue in prayer, we live our lives waiting, watching and hoping. Those actions shape who we are as we live day today.
Smith Wigglesworth was a Pentecostal evangelist in the early twentieth century. Before he began his healing and preaching ministry, he grew up a Methodist in the UK. Recently, I heard a preacher quote him in a sermon. The quote ties into this notion of waiting, watching and hoping, I think. There are several variations of the quote online. It goes something like, “I never pray for more than twenty minutes. But I never go twenty minutes without praying.”
That kind of prayer is active. That kind of prayer life knows how to wait, watch and hope. That’s what it’s doing with every breathe. How I wish I could encourage the church to pray like that!
Don’t wait until you fall into the depths of despair to trust God in prayer. Try the twenty-minute kind of prayer. Learn to find ways to pray to God throughout each day. As you do, you’ll notice just how determined you have to be to wait, watch and hope.