Psalm 3

God helps those who cannot help themselves

‘I only pray when I’m in trouble, but I’m in trouble all the time.’  [I.B. Singer]

Psalm 3 begins a long section of prayers for God’s help.  This type of prayer is by far the most numerous in the Psalter.  Typically the petitioner is an individual in serious trouble and cries out to the Lord for salvation.  Sometimes the trouble is with God (God’s seeming absence); sometimes there is trouble with others (betrayal by a close friend); and sometimes with self (the lure of temptation).  Some psalms include all three. 

These prayers are the response that faith is led to make to the beatitude that ended Psalm 2:  ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in God.’          We are shown that the only way through such paths of difficulty is to make our way through prayer.    

In this prayer note the threefold repetition of many‘How many are my foes; how many rise against me; how many speak evil of me.’ (v.1-2).  They are opponents of the psalmist and of God.  But the psalmist is moved to affirm that the Lord is a shield and one who answers his cry for assistance.

The center of the psalm is vs. 5:  ‘I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.’    How beautiful.  Even in the stresses buffeting his life, our poet is able to lie down and rest, freed from cares and anxieties.  Of course, this does not happen easily in our experience.  But we are grateful for those times when we can truly give up our fears and concerns and sleep in peace.

One late night a phone call on Jan. 27, 1956 nearly sent Martin Luther King over the edge. The caller whispered, “N-----, we’re tired of you and your mess now. And if you are not out of this town in three days, we are going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.” King later admitted that after this call, “I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward.”

But in this, one of his most devastating moments, King found strength in a newfound faith. That night of Jan. 27, after the phone call that threatened his family, King realized that even though he was a pastor, his faith was much more brittle than he had imagined.

Growing up in a religious household — King’s father and grandfather were ministers — he believed that his faith would be automatically conveyed from generation to generation, like a surname or a favorite watch.

“It was kind of inherited religion,” King said, “and I had never felt an experience with God in the way that you must . . . if you’re going to walk the lonely paths of this life.”

But the rumors and the whispers and the threats forced King to his knees. In a moment of revelation that Friday evening, King believed that he heard the voice of God channeled to him, providing new purpose and security in those dark hours.

King recalled, “at that moment, I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And, lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world. ’” Even though he was a preacher, it was the first time he had his own personal, intimate encounter with God. It was an encounter that endowed him with a deep sense of peace and purpose for the journey ahead.   [story in the Washington Post online]

PRAYER:  Gracious God, give us the courage to see and admit the true threats against us, but also the wisdom to see and trust your presence always with us.  AMEN.