Whose Prayer Should God Answer?

13 How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I be left to my own wits,
    agony filling my heart? Daily?
How long will my enemy keep defeating me?

Look at me!
    Answer me, Lord my God!
Restore sight to my eyes!
    Otherwise, I’ll sleep the sleep of death,
        and my enemy will say, “I won!”
        My foes will rejoice over my downfall.

But I have trusted in your faithful love.
    My heart will rejoice in your salvation.
Yes, I will sing to the Lord
    because he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6, Common English Bible)

The adult Sunday school program at Perritte Memorial UMC decided to do something a bit different during August. Each day during August they have a psalm to read and a question to toss around in their mind. I admire that they have taken the time to put this together and I know several are actively working in the program.

Today is “PSALM 13 – I have trusted in your Living-kindness.” When confronted with the feelings expressed in verses 1 and 2, how do you get yourself to those in verses 5 and 6.” (“A Month in Psalms – August 2020).

Before I actually get started working on this, I know corporate prayer games over the school’s public address system at football games is illegal. Though it is, and has been for many years, I also know that there are many schools that have chosen to stand in opposition to the Supreme Court.

The following are fictional characters but are based real people through preaching and teaching during the past 30 years. Let’s build these two characters.

First there is Carson. Carson is both a cheerleader and a member of the band. She is a leader in the senior class. She is a senior representative for the student council. The principal asks Carson if she will lead the “moment of silence” at the football game Friday night. Everyone at the school knows that when a student is asked, the expectation is, they will pray at the ballgame if they so desire. No one gets themselves into the middle of this argument.

When game night comes around, Carson shows up in the press box at the appointed time. She says the opponents school song will play. When they finish it is time for prayer. Carson prays,

Dear God,
We thank you that we can come out for a night of fun for us and for opponents from Friends Town. Lord we really don’t have anything against these people but I don’t know them and, well, our team needs a win over these people. So please God, let everyone play safe but give us a win for the Kangaroos. Amen.

In the meantime Sabrina, who is basically Carson but for the other school, begins to pray, no higher than a whisper. Since that are playing at Kangaroo Stadium, praying her whispered prayer is all she can do. She also prays for a good game. She prays no one on either team gets hurt. Then she prays for an Aardvark win. Just as Sabrina says Amen, she hears Carson’s words over the P.A. system. She thinks it funny because she knows God likes her and the Aardvarks better than Carson and the Kangaroos.

Let’s read Psalm 13 again and put it in the context of our characters.

13 “How long will you forget Kangaroos, Lord? We haven’t won a game in like, forever?”
    How long will you hide your face from our school and team?
How long will we be left to my own strength and game smarts,
    Each time we lose agony fills my heart? We have to win sometime, how about tonight?
How long will my enemy keep defeating us?

Look at us!
    Answer us, Lord our God!
Restore our skills to the field!
    Otherwise, we’ll sleep the sleep of death,
        and our enemy will say, “I won again!”
        Our foes will rejoice over defeat, again.

But we trust in your faithful love.
    Our hearts will rejoice in your win.
Yes, we will sing to the Lord
    because the Lord has been good to us. (Psalm 13:1-6, paraphrased)

Perhaps my thinking is wrong here, but that is where my mind went when I read Psalm 13. And, for those of you who don’t attend many high school football games, (I have to, I live in Texas. Its a law or something. Besides, I have kids in the churches I serve that play and I have a son who is a high school coach. I have no chance to avoid it. But its OK. I like high school football).

What is God supposed to do when two people are praying for opposite results in the same event. First, I really don’t think God cares who wins any high school football game. Second, even if God does care about things like football, who is God going to side with and will the other call their opponent their enemy.

But, this doesn’t have to be about football. When two believers get into a difference of opinion, what is God supposed to do when both start praying that they be the victor because they are both convinced beyond any doubt they are the one who is right?

To carry this even one step further, beyond things like sporting events, how does God feel when we call the other side, “the enemy,” when we are supposed to love our neighbors and everyone is our neighbor.

In Psalm 143:12 the psalmist writes, “Wipe out my enemies because of your faithful love. Destroy everyone who attacks me, because I am your servant.” Does such a claim as this not also say, “Wipe out my enemies because of your faithful love of me. Destroy everyone who attacks me, because I am your servant you you love me best?” It seems to me that thoughts such as these put us on a very slippery slope.

When my boys were at home, I loved them dearly, still do. I do not always love the decisions they make or all the things they do. But, I don’t stop loving them. If I, a finite creature can still love my children, even when they do things I know and they know are bad, do you not think an infinite God can love despite the things that both us and our enemies find are wrong? Does God like it when a terrorist blows himself up with a 100 innocent people? No, I don’t believe he does. Would God punish that? I believe he probably would. Will God stop loving them because of whatever they did. Is God going to stop loving them then? I sure hope not because how much longer will it be before God gets to the thing that I do that will make God quit loving me.

I will leave you to ponder one more piece of Scripture to think about with this. The psalmist prays for God to bring harm to the psalmist’s enemies. “43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”  (Matthew 5:43-45, Common English Bible).

When Jesus says to us, “…love your enemies and pray for those who hate you,” to pray for their demise, are we not ignoring the thing that Jesus tells us is most important? And, forgiveness is key.

What helps me move between versus 1-2 as opposed to the end of the chapter? I think Jesus is telling me the best way to handle money is doing what is right and the best way to handle an enemy is to make them a friend. While that isn’t always possible, I do believe its what Jesus would want us to do.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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