Meditation on Psalm 56

Kevin J Youngblood

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56)

I am often disarmed by the childlike faith of the psalmists. When I come across passages like the one above, I ask myself, can it really be that easy? The psalms make it sound so simple. When afraid, just trust in God. Then you will not be afraid any longer. After all what can mere flesh do to you? With regard to that last question, I can produce a long list of what flesh can do to me including my own.
Reading such statements of childlike faith, however, is a far different exercise than praying them. I find that when I actually pray these words rather than just read them, I become a child reaching for the Father whom I know loves me and whom I know can protect me from anything. Yes, he can protect me from anything but that does not necessarily mean that he will. God has often allowed me to suffer for my mistakes and sometimes he has even allowed me to suffer innocently for the mistakes of others. When this happens I cannot help but wonder if maybe in his divine, paternal wisdom such experiences, painful as they are, are in fact themselves protection against something far worse.
The psalmist’s childlike simplicity and trust reframes everything once it becomes my own prayer. What can flesh do to me? Well, a lot, but nothing that God cannot heal or reverse or turn toward my benefit. What the psalmist does so easily and so well is to place all of his problems, obstacles, and enemies before God in whose awesome presence they shrink to nearly nothing. Living in this world is like walking through the carnival attraction known as the hall of mirrors. Everything is distorted and misshapen when viewed from a merely fleshly perspective. That which is actually small appears gigantic, while that which is truly formidable appears compressed, small, and fragile. Reading and, even more importantly, PRAYING the psalms is like escaping the hall of mirrors and seeing everything as it really is from the divine, spiritual perspective.

Thank you for the gift of the psalms. Thank you for preserving the prayers of these spiritual giants so that one day, I could pray them to. I would never think to pray for the kinds of things they prayed for had I not had access to their prayers. Thank you even more for listening to and delighting in these prayers which you have heard over and over again from saints throughout the ages. I gladly join my voice to theirs in seeking first the kingdom and praying for what really matters. Lord Jesus, thank you for praying the psalms. You showed me how to do it. In your own prayers you honored this sacred tradition and you taught your disciples to honor it as well. Holy Spirit help me to pray the psalms with the sincerity and simplicity of a child. Thank you for reminding me of my weakness and thank you for being my strength. You enable me to pray and pray with me and perhaps even through me so that my prayers become part of the eternal, Triune conversation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am speechless.