PSA: Psalm 42 & Prayer


Psalm 42 begins with the famous lines, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” These words from Psalm 42:1 are a beautiful phrase to start off a passage that addresses the opposite extremes of our faith experience.

The Christian faith is filled with many wonders, riches, and joys as we walk with God. These moments make it easy to say, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” However, life is filled with difficulties that oppose our love for God. There are moments that seem as puzzling as some of the lines in Psalm 42. Lines such as verses 9-10:

“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemy’s oppression?”
My adversaries taunt me,
as if crushing my bones,
while all day long they say to me,
“Where is your God?”

These lines appear to stand in direct contrast to the psalms opening line that compare a deer panting for water as us longing for God. Yet, they are not in contrast to another; no, they are complimentary.

Most of us would prefer our view of God that matches the initial perceptions we have of Him. We love the idea of a Candyman God who gives us what we always want. But, life is filled with ups and downs that are unavoidable. As a result, we should embrace these inconveniences because they create unique opportunities to deepen our faith in God. Opportunities that will grow our love and trust who is present in every hope and adversity. Such depth then lets us truly long for God like a deer panting for water because we see His goodness in every circumstance, even when life is difficult.

The question then becomes, “How do we move from a shallow faith to one with depth?”

The answer is the Practical Scripture Application (PSA): Prayer!

When life brings despair, we may want to do anything but pray. Either our anger towards God or indifference to the pain we face may hinder our motivation to call out to the Lord. However, no matter our hurt or indifference, a willingness to pray will deepen our faith with God. Fortunately, we are not alone in this despair because many authors who felt similar.

Hurt, anger, and despair are expressed by David, Solomon, and other authors throughout the psalms. These bold expressions are their prayers to the Lord, which can us encourage today. As a college pastor once told me,

“Express your true emotions to God no matter how irreverent they may be. God is big enough to handle your comments. Besides, if we had life all figured out, then why would we ever need God?”

While his statements are provocative; we are to seek God because He can comfort us in ways beyond our abilities. There is no better example of our need for God than when we are in pain.

Often, we are taught to emphasize piety and humility when we pursue God. But, blunt honesty creates a great opportunity for us to trust Him deeper. It is when we have a genuine heart than self-righteous piety that we become open for God’s answers than our own. As a result, this spiritually vulnerable approach then produces an abundant love for God, while we indeed become deer who pant for water as if it were God Himself. We then can live like the close of Psalm 42 where the author says, “I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 42 teaches both raw and reverence. While humility is the preferred approach, it is not always the best approach. We may need a blunter approach, one that will reveal our true feelings with God. Some feelings will be harsh; others will be joyful. It finds a trust with God that must become our very life source, no matter the circumstance. Let us then pursue God in prayer with honest emotions and trust Him to produce the results to a deeper faith.