Psalm 77: A Middle-of-the-Night Prayer

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.

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Psalm 77

Psalm 77 is a 2am prayer – the type of prayer you say when you’re wide awake at night, unable to sleep with bad thoughts chasing round your head like dogs chasing their own tails. No one knows the exact circumstances of the Psalm but most of us can relate to the opening verses, the fainting spirit, the groaning, the distress (vv. 1–4). And, if we can’t relate to them yet, we will.

All the Psalmist’s hurt and pain are summed up in six pointed questions in verses 7 to 9. But what do we do when his questions have become our own?  

Verse 10 is key. The Psalmist makes an effort to focus no longer only on his situation but in the middle of his pain and confusion he recalls the foundations of his faith. In particular he remembers the great events of the Exodus when God rescued his people from the dark night of slavery in Egypt. He remembers how God saved and led his people, providing for all their needs (vv. 14–20).

Sometimes we forget that ‘we live by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7).  When things are going badly, we think that God does not love us, and when things are going well, we think God must be pleased with us and love us more. These old pagan ways of thinking die hard. The Bible tells us that God is love, love is his very nature. Just as the sun continues to shine even when there are clouds, so God continues to love us even when circumstances are not as we want.

When it is 2am in our lives, we are called to remember God’s great acts. Church is a remembering community. Most notably we are called to remember when we come to communion (Luke 22:19). Bread and wine remind us of the Christ who is present by his Spirit and remind us that Jesus gave his life for us and for the world, reconciling us to our heavenly Father and revealing the incredible depths of his love.