By Phil Wold

In our worship this past week, many of our congregations turned to Psalm 130. I think we could all do well to know the opening line of this Psalm by heart.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!”

So very often we find ourselves in the depths. So often, our prayers are a cry to God.

I knew someone who used to criticize our prayer habits. He said that many only pray what he called 9-1-1 prayers. He felt that too many people prayed to God only during difficult times.

I wonder, though. Do we have to pray during the best of times, in order to somehow earn the right to be able to pray in the worst of times?

I kind of doubt that. When you say it that way, it sounds pretty bad. Among other things, one might suggest that while God always hears our prayers, God’s hearing is not a result of our being so marvelous at prayer. It’s about God, who loves you and desires to be in a relationship with you.

I have on my desk a scribbled note I took at a lecture I heard this winter. The meeting was looking at those who claim to be spiritual but not religious. My note says this: “The problem of ‘the spiritual’ is that it’s not the place of tranquility, it’s the place of struggle.”

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!”

In the place of difficulty, one is thrown off balance and we find we need help. Then we can turn to God in humility and need. The walk of faith is not a journey of those who have it all together. (One might suggest that too often, we have acted otherwise.) The walk of faith, the spiritual life, is not a place of tranquility, but a place of struggle.

The story of Jacob gaining the new name of Israel is instructive. Israel means “God strives” and suggests that Jacob, now Israel, strives with God. Israelites, the chosen people of God, in some ways, are called to see their place as God’s chosen people to mean that their lives of faith are a struggle with God.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!”

Can it possibly be that the only legitimate prayers are those of praise and thanksgiving? What if you had to earn the ability to pray in times of difficulty by praying plenty in times of calm and tranquility?

How would you know you had done enough? You couldn’t!

The Psalmist gives words to our prayers, helping us turn to God in difficulty.

But not only that, the Psalmist moves from lament to praise. The Psalmist finds God to be faithful, and points to hope and praise, life and joy.

May your laments lead you to God, may God’s presence be known by you and may God bring you again to that place of thanksgiving and praise.

Phil Wold is the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church.