“What to Pray When You’re Afflicted”
June 25, 2017
Scripture is filled with exhortations and examples of suffering:
- For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Cor. 1:5)
- For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… (Phil. 1:29)
- More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ… (Phil. 3:8)
- For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. (1 Th. 3:4)
- Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God… (2 Tim. 1:8)
- For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Tim. 1:12)
- Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 2:3)
- …for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. (2 Tim. 2:9)
- Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12)
- But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled… (1 Pet. 3:14)
- Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1 Pet. 4:19)
- But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Pet. 5:9-10)
- Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. (Ps. 119:67)
- The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts. (Ps. 119:69)
- It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. (Ps. 119:71)
We know about suffering from the Bible. But we also know about suffering in real life. Everyone knows someone who is suffering. And everyone suffers. Sometimes the suffering is minor: a leaking faucet that soaks your carpet, not quite enough money for the last bill of the month, a nagging back ache, traffic congestion on your drive home. And sometimes the suffering is major: a house that burns down, bankruptcy, a baby with a terminal illness, or a broken marriage.
Wherever you are on that continuum, the fact is that we all know suffering. And one of the questions we must answer is, “what should we do when we suffer?” We want to honor the Lord; so what kind of response in suffering honors the Lord? The psalmist answers that question in Psalm 119:73-80.
You know that Psalm 119 is about the Word of God. Because of the importance of the Scriptures, we want to constantly remind ourselves of the power and significance of that Word. So twice each year — on the first Sunday and the middle Sunday of the year, we are looking at one of the stanzas in this psalm (we’re on schedule to finish in June, 2023). We might consider this a mid-year examination of our use of the Word of God and a mid-year correction to our use of the Word of God.
The theme of this stanza (yod) continues the theme of affliction begun in the previous stanza. But notice how in this stanza that the writer is not just making statements about the Word, but is making requests of God about his suffering — and he is making those requests on the basis of Scripture:
- Give me understanding (v. 73)
- May those who fear You see me and be glad (v. 74)
- May Your lovingkindness comfort me (v. 76)
- May Your compassion come to me (v. 77)
- May those who fear You turn to me (v. 79)
- May my heart be blameless (v. 80)
This is a song of prayers about affliction. So we can summarize the theme of this stanza this way:
When suffering, pray biblically.
The structure of this stanza is interesting: with parallel literary and conceptual structures, the heart of the stanza is in vv. 76-77 and then works outward in concentric circles of prayers to verses 73 and 80.
What should we pray when we are suffering unjustly? Here are four prayers to pray when we suffer and here are four prayers that we can pray when our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering. These are prayers to pray with them and for them.
- Pray for Spiritual Maturity in Your Suffering (vv. 73, 80)
- Pray for a Godly Influence on Others in Your Suffering (vv. 74, 79)
- Pray for a Divine Perspective on Your Suffering (vv. 75, 78)
- Pray for God’s Comfort in Your Suffering (vv. 76-77)
Download the rest of this sermon on Psalm 119:73-80.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.