My Soul Is Bereft | Psalm 35:11-14
Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning. Psalm 35:11-14 | ESV
Scot McKnight observes that fasting is one of prayer’s companions. In this psalm, David tells of his response to opponents’ illness and misfortune. He didn’t gloat. He got busy praying for them, joining the prayer with fasting. Too often for us prayer is but a mental activity divorced from the body except to the extent that our lips are involved uttering words. Biblically speaking, prayer was typically a whole body experience. John Goldingay in writing about this psalm observes that David’s sadness was not fully bloomed until the body – in this case, fasting – was involved: “The psalm assumes that merely to feel sadness is not enough; because we are physical creatures and not just minds and spirits, it would be odd not to express sorrow in abstaining from food and then afflicting one’s spirit and one’s self.” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how we might be transformed in how we internally and externally relate to those who are less than affable towards us (aka our enemies) if we, rather than grinding our teeth and venting our spleen on Facebook about them, fasted over them instead. We often comment on how utterly beyond our reach it is to “love your enemies.” Yes, totally beyond reach. Leaving the table for them, leaving off a meal to pray for them? Very much within our reach. And the unexpected windows of grace and generosity that could open up from within us towards them… The unanticipated vistas of grace and divine generosity it could open up to us…
What do you think about this notion of fasting over those on your “less than favorite people” list? Who has been “under your skin” recently that you can fast over sometime this week?
Lord, cool the embers of suppressed anger in my heart as I feed my enemy when he is hungry and fast for my enemy when she is suffering. Yes, lead me into those rhythms of your divine mercies. Through Jesus.
You probably knew this one was coming. But here it is. Identify someone who has wronged / annoyed / hurt you. Now skip a meal for them and devote that time to being with the Lord for them. Try it. (And this is crucial: don’t tell them. It just wouldn’t come out right.)
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.