The book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. It contains prayers written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which means that the Psalms teach us how to pray in accordance with God’s Word. Therefore, one of the ways that we can grow stronger in prayer is to pray the Psalms as our own personal prayers.

The Psalms make clear that the life of the true believer is inevitably full of conflict, adversity, trouble, danger, and sorrow. The Psalms show us that, for the true believer, life is difficult, indeed, life is a fight. There are external enemies in this fallen world who hate God and His people; our own sinful natures that still reside in us, inclining us to disbelieve and disobey God’s Word; and Satan and his demonic minions who tempt us to sin, pester us with worldly distractions, accuse our consciences, and mock us for our feeble faith. Read the Psalms, and you will see that not all of them are beautiful words of comfort such as Psalm 23 or songs of praise such as Psalm 100. There are many psalms that are expressions of agony, doubt, and fear in the face of spiritual warfare.

Psalm 13 is a good example. How many of us, in one way or another, at one time or another, have felt like crying out with the words of Psalm 13, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1)? This is one of those prayers—a lament —that, at first, we might be hesitant to pray. We might think that it sounds irreverent or even borderline blasphemous. Since God has said in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us, it might seem as though we were accusing God of breaking His Word. Should we really cry out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?”

Yes. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has given us Psalm 13 so that we can be assured that God accepts the honest outpourings of our souls. Most of us, if we live long enough, at some time or in some season, will feel so overwhelmed by adversity or grief that we will simply want to fall face down and cry out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” At such a time, Psalm 13 can serve as your personal prayer.

Those circumstances might involve prolonged suffering or hardship; chronic illness or physical pain; caring for a loved one who suffers physically or mentally; a continuing problem that just won’t go away or cannot get resolved; a series of circumstantial hardships, trouble upon trouble disturbing your life; or an injustice, a wrong done to you by a malicious person that has continuing negative consequences in your life; or the replaying of those “old tapes” from long ago—hurts, regrets, failures—that just keeping on playing and playing in your mind. In any of these cases, we might cry out: “Why do I have to keep dealing with this and going through this? Why doesn’t God deliver me from this?”

That’s exactly what Psalm 13:2 says—

How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

At this point, the psalm takes us down almost to the breaking point—almost to that point of despairing of life itself. David feels that his enemy is exalted over him, triumphing over him, defeating him. Whatever our “enemies” are, whatever our battles, our adversary the devil will tempt us to abandon hope, give up our faith in God, and sink in defeat and despair. That’s where Psalm 13 touches bottom, at the bottom of our souls, at the bottom of our lives.

The Psalms teach us how to pray in accordance with God’s Word.

But Psalm 13 does not let us abandon our faith and sink into ultimate despair. Psalm 13 teaches us to pray, not only expressing our feelings but also affirming our faith. As do so many psalms, Psalm 13 moves from fear to faith and also moves us from fear to faith. After those crying questions, David then, as our godly example and teacher, begins to pray in faith (Ps. 13:3–4):

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

Now, David is not simply crying out to God, expressing his pain and fears; at this point, he is calling on God to act. This, in itself, is an expression of faith. David affirms that God has the power to give him new strength, “to light up [his] eyes” (indicating renewed life and energy) and save him from death (Ps. 13:3).

Therefore, Psalm 13 gives us a prayer to pray in times of darkness and depression, but it does not let us stay stuck in self-pity and despair. That’s important. Psalm 13 looks upward and causes us to look upward. Despair begins to turn toward hope, and fear begins to be transformed into faith. And then Psalm 13 concludes with a wonderful affirmation of faith:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps. 13:5–6)

That’s quite a transition, from verses 1 and 2 to verses 5 and 6. The prayer that began with a cry of despair concludes with an affirmation of faith. That’s how God, through His Word, moves us from fear to faith, from despair to hope. But there’s something else that we need to consider.

Who was it, of all men who ever lived, who descended into the depths of utter sorrow? Who was it, of all men who ever lived, who really had the experience of being forsaken—truly forsaken—by God? Who was it, of all the men who have ever lived, who went down to death with his foes rejoicing because they prevailed over him?

You know who that was. Yes, Psalm 13 is a psalm of the suffering Savior. Psalm 13 is a prayer of Jesus. In Psalm 13, we hear the voice of Jesus Christ speaking prophetically about His own suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection. He has plumbed the depths of human suffering. He has walked through your valley of the shadow. He has faced and fought your enemy the devil, and He has won that war for you. He was forsaken as He died on the cross, and because He was forsaken on behalf of His people, those who trust in Him will never be forsaken.

Therefore, as we pray Psalm 13 as our personal prayer, we do so on the basis of our union with Christ, who by the Spirit prophetically offered this prayer not only for Himself but as our mediatorial representative. Because He was heard, we have the assurance that our prayer of Psalm 13 will be heard when offered in His name. And because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has overcome the world, defeated the devil, disarmed all the powers of darkness, destroyed death, atoned for sin, and justified His people, we in union with Him in His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven—despite our suffering in this fallen world—may confidently affirm our faith in God:

I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps. 13:5–6)

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