Together in Prayer

Vertical Prayer with Horizontal Impact

Why? (pt. 2)

David suffered much in his life – some of it the result of the sinfulness of others (as in King Saul’s pursuit of him) and some of it the result of his own sin (for example, in the episode with Bathsheba or the counting of the army). Sometimes David understood why he suffered; at other times he cried out in desperation and confusion to God. Psalm 22 is one of these latter occasions.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, he begins. (We’ll discuss Jesus’ similar prayer in the future.) David could not understand why God wasn’t hearing and responding to his cries of anguish (verses 1-2). Why did God not rescue him from his enemies, who mocked him and insulted him (verses 6-8).

How often do we find ourselves in a similar position? Our torment may not come directly from enemies, but our anguish is no less real just because its source may be less specific. Illness, tragedy, financial misfortune, relational difficulties – these may not have a source we can name like David could, but the distress they cause is just as genuine.

David found an answer during the course of the Psalm, but it wasn’t a direct answer to the question of “Why?” Instead, David’s answer was to realize God’s power and majesty, his faithfulness to his people (verses 3-5). He recognizes that he depends for his very life on God (verses 9-10). God’s faithfulness in the past, both to his people in general and to David specifically, caused David to continue to cry out to God (verses 19-21).

Knowing that God has been faithful and trusting that he will continue to be, David moves into praise and to calling forth praise from the people (verses 22-31). Not only does David see God’s hand in his own life – even though he may never have received a direct answer to his question of “Why?” – but he also sees God’s activity in the nations and throughout history, leading him to declare:

All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it! (verses 27-31)

We’ve all experienced times when it felt like God abandoned us. We didn’t receive an answer to our prayer (or at least not the answer we wanted). We longed for a certain outcome, but it didn’t happen. We suffered without an obvious reason why.

David’s example to us demonstrates that it’s OK to approach God with our “Why?” questions. He understands when we feel abandoned (even though he knows he hasn’t forsaken us!). He can handle our cries of anguish and our times of despair.

At the same time, God longs for us to see him as David did – not always because of his visible work in our lives but sometimes in spite of the seeming lack of his intervention. It’s easy to praise God when his blessing is all around us (though we may often forget to do just that!); it requires much more faith to praise him when evidence of his goodness is less visible. At times like these, it helps to remember as David did who God is. His identity is not wrapped up in what we might be going through; rather, he is enthroned in heaven (verse 3) and he rules over the nations (verse 28). A God like that is worthy of our worship and our faith, regardless of the temporary circumstances we may be facing.

So again, we begin with “Why” but we end up in a very different place. We end up with our eyes on God rather than on our circumstances, and we’re encouraged as we behold the One to whom all the ends of the earth will turn.

About Andrew Wheeler

Andrew has led small groups and prayer groups for over 30 years, dating back to college where he led the prayer ministry of his InterVarsity chapter. He served in the prayer ministry of Willow Creek Community Church for over 20 years, including co-directing the prayer ministry at Willow Creek Crystal Lake. He is the author of Together In Prayer, a guide for leading prayer in a small group setting, and has written numerous articles for Prayer Connect and He is a featured blogger on Pray.Network.