My brother Lance was born with a hearing disability, and I learned early in my life how to communicate well with him. We needed to be attentive to each other, and he needed to ensure his ear was “inclined” to his small sister if he was to understand and participate in a conversation. I always found it frustrating when other people or sounds distracted him, or he simply didn’t want to hear.
“Incline your ear, O lOrD” is the rst plea of this psalm. The psalmist shouts words to this effect: “Take particular notice of me, Lord God! This is about me this time! I need your favor right now!” In Australian lingo, this is the equivalent of “Look at me, look at me, look at me!” Prayer and a sense of being heard always involve relationship and attention.
The personal prayer acknowledges and recognizes God, but only one verse (outside of today’s reading) articulates the psalmist’s trouble: “O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruf ans seeks my life, and they do not set you before them” (v. 14). This is no casual prayer. It details a direct intimate relationship centered in promise and faithfulness—a covenant. The psalmist is con dent of the right to seek God’s help and in the belief that God will respond.
This is no “ ick a quick prayer out when I’m in trouble just in case God really exists and will help me.” Unlike my brother who could choose not to hear me, God “will answer” the psalm- ist. The God to whom the psalmist prays does not get distracted; the Lord is “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love.” The psalmist and his God: a fostered, attentive relationship of intimacy and grace that encourages me to examine my own attentiveness to God so that I too may cry out with con dence, “Incline your ear, O LOrD, and answer me.”
Teach me your ways, O God; may I grow in my understanding of your power and grace. Amen.
Implicit in the story of Hagar and Ishmael is the threat to Isaac and to God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah. The psalmist captures the terror by unnamed forms of destruction that may threaten an individual or people. Paul raises the specter of that most universal threat—death—but does so within the context of the new life won by Christ’s resurrection. Matthew describes various ways in which the enemies of Jesus threaten his disciples because of their association with him.
• Read Genesis 21:8-21. When have you felt burdened and outcast? What was your experience of God’s hearing you where you were?
• Read Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17. Do you pray in the confidence that God hears and will answer your pleas? If not, how could you learn to pray in that manner?
• Read Romans 6:1b-11. Paul speaks of dying to self and rising with Christ. How has your Christian faith given you a sense of freedom from sin?
• Read Matthew 10:24-39. What makes God’s presence real to you? How does God’s intimate knowledge of you—the number of hairs on your head—make you feel?
Respond by posting a prayer.