Prayer in Time of Abandonment
1 A maskil[b] of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
2 [c]I cry out to the Lord with my plea;
I entreat the Lord to grant me mercy.
3 Before him I pour out my complaint
and tell my troubles in his presence.
4 [d]No matter how faint my spirit is within me,
you are there to guide my steps.
Along the path on which I travel[e]
they have hidden a trap for me.
5 I look to my right,
but there is no friend who knows me.
There is no refuge available to me;
no one cares whether I live or perish.[f]
6 [g]I cry out to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”[h]
7 Listen to my plea for help,
for I am in desperate straits.
Rescue me from those who seek to persecute me,
for they are too strong for me.[i]
8 Set me free from my prison,[j]
so that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will assemble around me
because of your great generosity to me.
- Psalm 142:1 The psalmist issues a prayer for deliverance from powerful enemies. Whether he is King David (see 1 Sam 22:10) or someone unknown, he has been trodden upon by everyone and is undergoing the agony and passion of so many others. He is also an image of Christ, isolated and suffering without protest.
Often we too find ourselves exhausted on our journey through life, strewn as it is with many snares. For some, it is social or political oppression that prevents us from leading a fully human and Christian existence. For others, religious persecution itself intervenes to restrain or destroy our goods and freedom. Upon each one, our spiritual enemies (the world and the devil) impose a continuous struggle, both fierce and treacherous, that each must wage practically without human help. In these struggles, we can make use of this psalm to direct to God an ardent and confident appeal.
- Psalm 142:1 Maskil: see note on Ps 32; When he was in the cave: see Ps 57:1; 1 Sam 22:10; 24:1f.
- Psalm 142:2 The psalmist uses the formal third person (customary when addressing kings) to pour out his troubles to God.
- Psalm 142:4 The psalmist is at the point of spiritual exhaustion (see Pss 76:13; 77:3; 143:4; Jon 2:8), and only God can help for he knows the faithful’s destiny, his present and future life (see Ps 139:24). Yet the Lord is not present to help him along this path of his enemies, which is filled with snares. My right: i.e., the place where one’s witness or legal counsel stood (see Pss 16:8; 109:31; 110:5; 121:5).
- Psalm 142:4 Along the path on which I travel: the present path on which the psalmist is traveling, i.e., the path of his opponents, which is covered with such snares as to fill him with dread, in contrast to the path of the Lord, which leads to such salvation as to fill him with hope (vv. 7-8).
- Psalm 142:5 No one cares whether I live or perish: the psalmist is like an outcast for whom no one cares and whom no one comes forward to protect. He is alone and extremely vulnerable.
- Psalm 142:6 The psalmist reiterates his distress and his plea for deliverance, confessing that the Lord is his refuge (see Ps 91:2; Jer 17:17) and his hope (my portion in the land of the living: see Pss 16:5; 73:26; 119:57; Lam 3:24). In turn, he will give thanks for his deliverance (see note on Ps 7:18), and the righteous will rejoice in the Lord with him (see Pss 22:25; 34:3; 64:10; 107:42).
- Psalm 142:6 Hence, the psalmist cries out to the Lord for help. The Lord is his Covenant God; he most of all should be solicitous for his servant. In the land of the living: i.e., here below, during his earthly life (see Ps 27:13).
- Psalm 142:7 The enemies of the psalmist are too strong for him. Unless the Lord comes to his aid, the afflicted man is lost. There is no one else who can save him.
- Psalm 142:8 Prison: a word that may denote actual imprisonment or may be a metaphor for the psalmist’s desperate plight characterized by adversity and isolation (see Ps 107:10; Isa 42:7). Assemble around me: the Greek and Syriac translate this phrase as “hope [or wait] around me” (see Job 36:2). All the friends of God are united in praise and joy (see Pss 22:26; 34:4; 64:11; 107:42).