A PRAYER OF THE PERSECUTED
Holy Spirit, prepare my heart and mind to receive new understanding and new insights from Your Word today.
Read Psalm 129
A song of ascents.
1 “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
2 “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
3 Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
4 But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
5 May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
6 May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
7 a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
8 May those who pass by not say to them,
“The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectRecall a time of suffering or testing. How did the Lord sustain and deliver you? Why not thank him in a hymn or song?
This psalm, with its opening focus on persecution (vs 1–3) and its disturbingly curse-like closing prayer (vs 5–8), seems an odd choice to sing en route to the Temple. But considering the relentless persecution of the Jews in almost every age and society, songs that remember suffering and survival are necessary. The psalm hinges on verse 4. The people’s survival was not due to their own works or worthiness, but solely thanks to God’s goodness shown through his acts of deliverance.
Those who worship God and love Jesus still suffer persecution. The past century has seen unprecedented levels of oppression as ideologies and authorities have tried to restrain and constrain God’s people. Our prayers for the persecuted church begin with verse 4. Although verses 5 to 8 may sound vengeful, as we look closer we see a plea for the enemy to realize their wrongdoing (v 5), for evil to come to nothing (vs 6,7).
Withholding blessing (v 8) is undoubtedly better than cursing our enemy, but Jesus urged us to imitate the mercy, love, and righteousness of our heavenly Father (see Luke 6:27, 28): to bless those who curse us and pray for those who ill-treat us.
Use verses 4 to 8 to guide your prayers for the persecuted church. Pray for the persecutors to be convicted of their sin, and that their plans to restrain Christians would be foiled.
Lord Jesus, when I read this passage, I am reminded that You presented Your back to smiters, and by Your wounds and stripes I am saved and healed. Thank You Lord.