“How Long, O Yahweh?” The Complaint Prayer Of Psalm 13 -- By: Cecil P. Staton, Jr.

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:2 (Spring 1990)
Article: “How Long, O Yahweh?” The Complaint Prayer Of Psalm 13
Author: Cecil P. Staton, Jr.


“How Long, O Yahweh?”
The Complaint Prayer Of Psalm 13

Dr. Cecil P. Staton, Jr.

Assistant Professor of Christianity
Brewton-Parker College
Mount Vernon, Georgia

Introduction

The Old Testament contains many beautiful and interesting prayers.1 In this article a brief but intriguing example of one common type of Old Testament prayer will be considered. The lament of Psalm 13 is interesting and worthy of study because it is a clear example of a type of prayer which is not generally represented in the worship and prayers of modern Christians. There is something uncomfortable about the questions this psalmist asks God: “How long, O Yahweh? Will you cease to care for me forever? How long will you conceal your presence from me?” (Ps 13:2[1]).2 The suggestion that one might speak to God in this manner is disturbing. Perhaps even more disturbing is the accusation that God has abandoned the psalmist. Is it possible for the person of faith to be abandoned by God? Certainly we are not generally accustomed to speaking to or about God in this manner except, perhaps, at rare moments of extreme emotional crisis and distress, when we let our guard down and express our innermost hidden feelings.

Yet if the Old Testament is reflective of the faith of Israel in the centuries before Christ, then such questions and complaints as are found in Psalm 13 were brought to God, even in Israel’s worship. Psalm 13 provides us with an example of a type of prayer which may be somewhat unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Yet it is in the Bible.3 Are there times when such a prayer is appropriate for the worship and devotion of modern people of faith?

In this article we will examine the text and background of Psalm 13. Perhaps such a study will illuminate our understanding of this type of psalm which is an example of the prayers of Israel in the difficult times of life which come to all, even to people of faith, then and now.

Translation

To the director, a psalm of David

1[2]. How long, O Yahweh? will you cease to care for me forever?

How long will you conceal your presence from me?

2[3]. How long shall I have cares on my mind, sorrow in my heart daily?

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