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Prayer for a dark land

O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? Remember that we are the people you chose in ancient times, the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth. — Psalm 74:1-2

The Promised Land, once so full of promise, was now “full of darkness and violence” (Psalm 74:20). The temple so beautifully designed and exquisitely crafted was no more, the walls of the city lay in ruins, and its gates were chopped down like much firewood (74:3-8). The people of the land languished far away in exile, bemoaning their fate, weeping bitter tears of regret, and praying deep prayers full of longing. All that they had hoped for had failed, and they had only themselves to blame.

But one thing puzzled the exiled of Israel. Had God finally abandoned them permanently? There were no miracles to suggest the Lord was still interested, no powerful prophets presenting words from God’s throne. The heavens were silent and the earth was desolate. Had God finally and irrevocably abandoned them?

The question was valid. Does there come a point in a nation’s history where the Lord says, “Enough is enough! I’m through with these people”? The history of God’s people, which the psalmist mentions, strongly suggests that He is willing to forgive and restore a nation in response to the prayers of His people (see also 2 Chronicles 7:14).

The writer of this psalm reminded the Lord that He had a great history of deliverance (Psalm 74:2), that His holy name was being abused (74:7, 10), that His people were in dire straits (74:19), that His enemies were having a field day (74:18), and that He made certain promises He must not fail to fulfill (74:20).

So what of the nations of the world? Are there dark places where light should be shining? Does violence prevail where people should be living in peace? Of course! And what should God’s people be doing? They should be calling on the Lord, reviewing the history of God’s workings, counting the promises of His grace, and rebuking His enemies.

Like humble doves among predators, God’s people should be living wisely and winsomely in His power, ready not only to pray but also to play an active part in the answers to their own prayers. It is the “poor and needy” who will eventually give praise (74:21), it is the weak and foolish through whom God works (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and it is those who call on His name who become the agents of His working (see Nehemiah 1:11).

When God moves in a dark and violent land, He begins with His people and works through them. So instead of cursing the darkness, let us call on the Lord and gear up for action—all for the sake of His name!

For further study: Psalm 74

Content taken from The One Year Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.