Prayer

Does God Forget? (Psalm 119:49)

Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope (Psalm 119:49)

String ReminderWhat types of people do you need to say “Remember” to?  People who forget.

Just last night several unnamed members of my family forgot to put dishes in the dishwasher.  So, I reminded them, but surprisingly, they didn’t seem to appreciate my reminder.

As I was working on this I couldn’t remember if I’d blogged on this topic before, so I did a quick search and found this post on “Delighting and Forgetting” based on Psalm 119:16.  Similar, but different.

One would think that divine beings wouldn’t need to be reminded, right?  Does God forget?  I think that the “right” answer is “no”, but then I read the Bible and I’m not so sure.

The author of Psalm 119 is not unique in regards to reminding God.  Interestingly, lots of people in the Old Testament feel a need to remind God to remember.

Moses (Exo. 32:13);
Samson (Judg. 16:28),
Hannah (1 Sam. 1:11),
Solomon (2 Chron. 6:42),
Hezekiah (2 Kgs. 20;30),
Nehemiah (Neh. 1:8; 5:19),
the
psalmist (Psa. 74:2; 89:50),
the author of Lamentations (Lam. 5:1).  

(Notice how I arranged those from shortest to longest?  Freaky, huh?)

That’s an impressive list of divine reminderers (I spelled it that way intentionally).  Do all these people think God forgets?  I’m not sure, but they clearly think it’s OK to nag God about his responsibilities (put your dishes away, remember your word to your servant).

So, why does the author of Psalm 119 (and all these other OT people) tell God to remember?

1) Because God forgets?
2) Because it seems like God forgets?
3) Because the psalmist forgets that God doesn’t forget?

The answer to this question is not clearly found in this verse, but I’m certain that there are times that I forget (#3) and that it seems like God is forgetting (#2).

And I’m also certain that even though I get offended when people remind me about something (“Don’t you trust that I’ll remember?”), God doesn’t.  If he does get offended he shouldn’t have authorized so many of his godly people in Scripture to remind him to remember.

Lest we accuse the psalmist here of arrogance to remind God, he does refer to himself as God’s servant, and the psalmist is clearly in a place of desperation, waiting in hope for God to act.

Once again, Psalm 119 provides a model of bold prayer for us, reminding us to remind God.  Don’t forget.

What do you remind God of?  Which answer (choice 1, 2 or 3) would you give for the question above?

I’ve moved (finally) to the 7th letter of the Hebrew alphabet (zayin) and therefore the 7th section of Psalm 119 (verses 49-56, see below).  The Hebrew verb “remember”, zakar, begins with the letter zayin (see 119:55 below).

Zayin

A soul-melting sorrow (Psalm 119:28)

My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word (Psalm 119:28 NRSV).

What do you do when you’re depressed?  The psalmist writes a poem of prayer, describing to God the pain of a soul-melting with sorrow.  (Despite his blue, melted body, the guy in the picture doesn’t look too bad.) I usually just watch TV.  The psalmist’s plan is probably better.

In Hebrew the verb dalaph (“melts” or “weeps”) begins this fourth verse of this fourth section of the psalm (119:25-32) where every verse begins with the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, dalet.  So, it could be translated literally, “Weeps my soul from sorrow…”

So, what’s the cause of the psalmist’s sorrow?  It’s hard to know, and there’s not a clear connection between this verse and the previous one where the psalmist ended by meditating on God’s wonderous works.

In any case, the psalmist knows help is needed, so the request is for strengthening according to the word of YHWH.  How is the word going to lift the depression?  Again, it’s not clear, but two things are clear.  First, when the psalmist is struggling with sorrow, prayer (“strengthen me”) is the remedy chosen.  Second, the prayer itself focuses on God’s word.  Sounds like a good prescription for health.  Prayer, Scripture, God.

God, in our pain, help us remember you and your word. 

Image from http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/cool-eco-campaign-climate-change-melts-man-in-buenos-aires.html

Why pray?

This weekend I’ll be giving a talk on the parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) as a part of a conference that Shannon and I are doing together on “God Behaving Badly in Jesus’ Parables.”  At the beginning of the talk I’m going to ask them “Why pray?”  How would you answer that question (in one sentence)?  I’d love to get some comments so that I can use some of your answers this weekend.  (Neither the dog or the boy are related to me–just a Google image capture.  I know the dog has his eyes closed, but God would probably be more open to responding to a canine prayer if he could get his paws in the proper position.)

Why pray?