For most of us (myself included), feeling farther from God than we want to is an ongoing battle. So, knowing what we can do to move toward him is an important practice to cultivate.
In my last post, we looked at three ways we can move toward God when he feels far away. Today, we’ll look at two more.
#4 Argue with God
When David asks for what he wants in verses 4-5, he does something interesting. He argues – or reasons – with God, telling him why he should answer his prayers.
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
He wants God to save him from his illness, distress and enemies, and he reminds God of his steadfast love, and, the fact that if he dies, he won’t be able to praise God any more. (Living before Christ and his resurrection, David’s understanding of the afterlife was limited.)
This is interesting. It’s not like God needs David to cajole him into answering his prayers, right? So, what’s going on here?
Tim Keller’s book Prayer is really helpful here (and great overall). He shares some reflections J.I. Packer makes about the practice of ‘arguing’ with God.
The idea isn’t that we know better than God, or need to provide him with new information. (As if we were consultants.) Instead, arguing – or reasoning – with God means telling him why what we’re praying for seems best to us, in light of who we know God to be from Scripture. What he loves; makes him sad; what his priorities are; and so on.
To return to the example with my son waking up early from my last post, I think David would counsel me to pray more like this:
‘God, help him sleep in again. I want to pursue you without distraction and give you the praise you deserve. I want to serve your people through blogging more frequently like I used to’.
Normally, when I hear the doorknob turn and little footsteps on the stairs, I get grouchy. My prayers don’t sound like this. It’s kind of all about me.
So arguing or reasoning with God can help us become less selfish. As we start to think about why we’re asking for we’re requesting, it can start to change our desires. Good desires are nurtured, while selfish desires start to lose their power.
#5 Wait with confidence
At the end of the psalm, David is still waiting for God to show up. We don’t get the Disney ending.
But, he knows that ‘The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer’ (9). At some point, God is going to deliver him and his enemies better take cover! (10)
When we cry out to God, we know that God has heard – and accepted – our prayers because of what Jesus did. ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Even when we don’t get the answer we want, we can be absolutely sure God hears and cares. He wants us to come boldly to him so that we can get the help we need. Even if that help is simply the grace we need for the day in front of us.
So, there you go, 5 ways to draw close to God when he feels far away. Engage him with honesty and humility, confess any known sin, ask for what we want, argue (reason) with him, and wait.
Remember, we don’t (and can’t) get all of these right all of the time. But if we do more of them more often, we’ll find that we feel closer to God, even if our circumstances don’t change.
Question: What would it look like for you to argue (reason) with God, or, to wait for him with confidence? How could you incorporate that into your next devotional time with him?