Getting God’s Attention in Trials
Christian, have you ever felt distant from God? If you have, did it feel as if God was hiding his face from you, or that he had forsaken you? Did it seem like God was refusing to hear your prayer and meet your needs? Be of good courage, dear friend, because our text today reveals that David had similar feelings in the midst of a trial as recorded in Psalms 141.
“LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.”
In the above Scripture, it is immediately apparent that David uses a direct, almost demanding tone to address God in his prayer. First, David tells God to “make haste” or come quickly to Him. Second, David tells God to “give ear to” (hear) his voice. These two demanding statements made by David reveal an important yet often unpracticed principle of prayer: we need to get God’s attention.
Sometimes, God may seem afar off simply because we are not coming to Him in a spirit of humility, asking Him to meet our every need. We fret, worry, and ponder on our problems and afflictions instead of obeying the command of Philippians 4:6 to “be careful for nothing.” We have to understand that God wants us to come to Him about everything (1 Peter 5:7). Notice that the psalmist was not afraid to pour out his heart before the Lord, neither was he afraid to demand that God listen to and help him speedily.
You may find it irreverent or disrespectful to address God in such a manner, but sometimes, God wants to hear the urgency in our prayers (James 5:16b), and he wants to hear us claim His promises with boldness (Heb. 4:16). Of course, we need to examine ourselves first and make sure that unconfessed sin is not the reason why God is choosing not to hear our prayers (see Psalms 66:18 and Isaiah 59:1-2), but if we are right with Him, there should be no reason for us to be timid in approaching the throne of God (Heb. 10:22).
Secondly, God knows exactly what we need and he knows how we are going to get through whatever situation we are facing, but many times God does not extend his hand until we seek His face in prayer (Heb. 11:6) and beg Him for his help and guidance. Consider what James says in James 4:2b:
“…ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume [waste] it upon your lusts.”
Many times, God does not hear our prayers in a trial because the attitude of our prayers is self-centered; we want God to simply remove the trial and give us immediate relief from the emotional/physical turmoil that we are experiencing. When we pray selfishly in this manner, we are telling God we really don’t want His help, we just want to go back to our “normal lives.” Therefore, we do not receive God’s favor and blessing in the trial, because we “ask amiss”, waiting for God to bless our own selfish endeavors rather than asking God to help us endure what He has determined as His perfect will. Remember, God’s will is to strengthen you through the trial (1 Pet. 5:10), not to discourage or weaken you through it.
Thus, when we pray during our trials, it is wise to follow David’s example and beg God to hear and help us promptly, but we must do so in a humble spirit and with a mindset that we will do God’s will regardless if He decides to remove the trial or purify us through it.
Notice what the psalmist prayed immediately after making his request in verse one:
“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Even though David desperately wanted God to hear his prayer and help him quickly, David’s request for God’s help was laced with a desire to depart from evil and follow God (see vv. 3-5). David’s goal in prayer was worship, not complaining. Yes, God wants us to bring all our problems to Him and come boldly before the throne of grace, but what gets God’s attention the most is when our hearts are submissive to his will and leading despite the gravity of our present circumstances. Consider the following verses found in Psalms 44:
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart…Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off forever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake.
~Psalms 44:17-21, 26
Notice that in the above passage of Scripture, the first statement the psalmist(s) make is that their hearts are not turned back against the Lord, neither have they forgotten God or sinned against God in asking a false god for deliverance. In other words, they did not sin against God or forsake him because of their circumstances.
Before we seek to get God’s attention in trials, we must make sure that we have not resorted to worldly means in which to deliver ourselves from the trial. For example, we cannot expect to get God’s attention to help us with a financial trial if we have already planned to take out a bank loan, file bankruptcy, etc. Even though we may not have fulfilled those plans, God knows our hearts and he knows whether or not we really are desiring his counsel. In contrast, if we have asked God to search us and try us and make sure there is no wicked way in us, then we can confidently and boldly come before God and say, “Arise, O LORD, help us! Why hidest thou thy face? Give ear to my prayer, O LORD and help me speedily!” In so doing, we are effectively and rightfully claiming God’s promise that God will hear the prayers of the righteous, just as David did in our text. This is when we get God’s attention and God no longer appears afar off or distant to us, but reaches down in love to help us and comfort us. Consider the following promises that God offers when we pray fervently for God to help us:
1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
Friend, God is there in your trial, whether it be financial, spiritual, emotional, or physical. If it seems like God is distant, perhaps you are not getting God’s attention. Perhaps you are not coming before Him boldly in full assurance of faith, or maybe your prayers are self-centered and lustful instead of submissive and Spirit-led. Perhaps you have sinned against God in resorting to your own means and will instead of truly begging God for help like the psalmist. Maybe you are simply not worshipping God in the trial and are complaining instead of praising God despite your circumstances.
The author would like to encourage you today to get God’s attention by repenting of your sin, acknowledging His Will in your trial and in your life, and by boldly claiming the promises of God, so that He will hear you and help you in whatever trial or temptation you may be facing today.