(If you are gathered in a group, you could begin with the following call and response.)
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts!
We lift them up to the Lord!
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give Him thanks and praise!
THE CALL | Matthew 16:24-26 [ESV]
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Lord, we think on the unjust wounds you suffered at the hands of evil men. Like plowers making long their furrows (Psalm 129:3), they afflicted you with scars. That you, the Son of God, suffered such wounds is awful enough, but what is worse is they were brought about by our willful wrongs. Forgive us, Lord, of our sins that required such a payment. And yet you took this payment on willingly – what a humbling thought. You suffered this affliction from your foes that you might triumph over them (Psalm 129:2), not for your own sake, but for the sake of your people. We praise you that our adversary, and even death, will soon wither like the grass on the housetop (Psalm 129:6), and that, in you, they will not prevail over us.
ASSURANCE | Isaiah 53:2-3,5 [ESV]
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Day 56: Psalm 88
“Darkness is my closest friend.”
That is how this psalm ends. Psalm 88 is known as the darkest of all psalms, unmatched in its despair. How are we to pray or sing this psalm?
If you cannot relate to this psalm in your present circumstances, you can enter empathetically into the sufferings of this author as representative of the struggles of believers around the world. Whether it’s Ukrainians sleeping in bunkers and basements right now, refugees who have lost loved ones or separated from their family, persecuted Christians around the world, or even a friend or family member who feels this darkness, one way we can pray these darkest of lament psalms is with others in mind, because attacks of darkness and death upon one Christian is an attack upon Christ.
Another reason that everyone should pray this psalm is because it reminds us of the darkness of the cross of Christ. Lament psalms ultimately find their hope in the cross, and the more we pray and sing this psalm the more we will be thankful because we understand the sheer agony of Christ’s sufferings. As we move towards Easter in the 90 Days of Worship, we must remember that just as there was a resurrection for Christ, so there will a resurrection for all people who are in Christ.
If you are suffering right now, and can say, with the psalmist, “Darkness is my closest friend,” use this liturgy,written by a fellow sufferer. This psalm may not give you any answers, but it gives you the words to express the darkness you find yourself in. It teaches us two ways wecan be praying in the midst of suffering: pray persistently and pray honestly. It seems that praying is the only thing the suffering psalmist can do, but his persistence is impressive (vv 1, 2, 9, 13), even if he feels God isn’t listening (v 14). And don’t miss the raw honesty of his prayers (vv 5-8, 16, 17). This psalm gives us permission to express our pain and agony freely to God. But know that the God who saves and works wonders (v 1) will in due course pull you up from the mire and clay in due course, because for every cross there is a resurrection. (Seulgi Byun)
Praying Psalm 129:3
This week, we will use Psalm 129 as a prayer template that we move through progressively each day.
“The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.” (Psalm 129:3).
Let this verse lead you into a time of recognizing your afflictions before the Lord and lifting them up to him for consolation.
I believe in the God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary;
suffered under Pontius Pilate;
was crucified, dead, and buried;
he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the resurrection of the dead;
and the life everlasting. Amen.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 [ESV]
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
City Reformed Presbyterian Church
The 90 Days project is a collaborative effort of many church leaders. Matt Koerber and Daniel Snoke have taken lead roles, with others helping to write daily devotionals.