Ep.161: Psalm 71: Praying the Problems of Aging.

Hello. I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

In one of his books on prayer, Father Thomas Green said he expected as he grew older that faith would grow easier. As a younger man, he did not understand the older priests’ experience of new difficulties and new temptations. But, he wrote, his advancing age brought understanding. 

My experience has been similar. Things once simple and obvious when my beard was black became confusing and unclear as my beard turned white. I discovered that God accommodates many strange points of view I had dismissed, and that he is patient with many souls who drive me to impatience. I have lost my rigid approach to scripture, and I am moving into the mystery of living in partnership with Christ who lives in me. The God I worship today is bigger and wiser and more merciful than the God I worshipped when my beard was black. 

In Psalm 71, the poet shares the same experience. Keenly aware of advancing age, greying hair, and declining strength, he says,
  You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
        . . . since my youth (v. 5).
    Do not cast me away when I am old;
        do not forsake me when my strength is gone (v. 9).
And he also says,
    Even when I am old and grey,
        Do not forsake me, my God (vv. 17a, 18).

In Psalm 71 the prayer of aging is not a prayer of settled confidence and unshakeable hope. The writer is not rocking away his life on the porch, waiting for a sunset ending. Instead, he prays desperately while his enemies attack; he struggles toward hope and faith. He cries, “My enemies say that God has forsaken me” (v. 11a) They say,
        “We will pursue him and seize him,
        for no one will rescue him” (v. 11b,c). 

In his fear he says:
      Do not be far from me, my God;
          come quickly to help me (v. 12).

Let’s pray. 

Our father, in my senior years I reflect on 50 years of seeking you. Like the poet, 
      You brought me forth from my mother’s womb (v. 6b).
      Since my youth, God you have taught me (v. 17).
And like the poet,
      Though you have made me see troubles,
          many and bitter,
          you will restore my life again (v. 20a). 

Yes, Lord, I have not lived a hugely successful life, arriving at a pinnacle of wisdom and faith. Rather, my life has been dissonant and erratic. I have learned slowly, through many troubles. Sometimes, I felt your great love and care, but often I was angry and desperate and afraid. 

But you have been faithful since my youth, and I am confident your faithfulness will continue. As the poet says,
    . . . I shall always have hope;
        I will praise you more and more (v. 14).
    My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,. . .
        though I know not how to relate them all (v. 15a, 15c).
Somehow in the midst of the years, the habit of hope has grown strong. The clamor of complaining falls silent as the voice of praise grows stronger.

Our father, I feel the weakness that comes with age. My hairline recedes, my beard turns white, the wrinkle cream stopped working long ago, and my strength begins to wane. With the poet I pray,
      Even when I am old and grey,
          do not forsake me, my God (vv. 17a, 18)..
Give me strength against my enemies of criticism and gossip and complaining. Instead of reciting my medical history, may I recite your praises. Instead of despairing at the evil everywhere may I trust in you. Instead of disparaging the young for their shallowness and foolishness, may I pray them on the road to wisdom. As the poet says, help me to:
    Declare your power to the next generation,
        your mighty acts to all who are to come (v. 18b). 

May I finish the journey with confidence, with assurance that you care, with hope that you will welcome me into your presence forever.  


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.