by Pat Baker
We buried my Uncle Dan last summer. A World War II veteran, he was buried with full military honor in a solemn yet beautiful ceremony. One of the defining events of his life was his service in the war, and it seemed entirely fitting that his funeral and burial took place Memorial Day weekend. That, at least, made sense, though the events leading up to his death did not, humanly speaking.
Six months earlier, he’d suffered a massive stroke at the nursing home where he lived. It robbed my gentle and articulate uncle of the ability to speak or move, and after a month of unsuccessful therapy, the nursing home resigned itself to simply keeping him as comfortable as possible.
In the months that followed, I struggled to comprehend the sovereign wisdom of a God who apparently had a purpose in this type of existence for my uncle. I struggled, too, in prayer. My uncle and I were close, and I prayed fervently for his recovery–but instead, his miseries increased. He developed bedsores that stubbornly refused to heal, despite the attention of a concerned nursing staff. I thought of the testing of Job, and wondered how God was redeeming this experience in my uncle’s life. Lord, I prayed, hasn’t he suffered enough? How could increasing his misery make him any more fit for Your kingdom?
Yet it seemed my prayers went no further than the clouds. Five months after the stroke, it was determined that the tissue around the bedsore on his foot was dying, and that his lower leg would have to be amputated if there was to be any hope of recovery. Overwhelmed with the seemingly senseless futility and cruelty of it all, I now began to simply pray for a release from a painful existence for him. And although he survived the amputation, God granted my request when He finally took him home to be with the Lord two weeks after surgery.
Though relieved that he was now in heaven with the Savior he loved, I was left with a deep sense of loss and many lingering thoughts about the purpose of prayer in the midst of the sovereign outworking of God’s plans. In the weeks that followed, the Holy Spirit not only comforted me, but led me to a rediscovery of Psalm 57.
The psalm records the prayer of David during a time when he would’ve been hard-pressed to see the hand of God at work. King Saul was seeking to kill him, and David was hiding in the deepest part of a cave with a band of outlaws. Saul’s men were so close he could hear their shouts; he must have wondered how this fit in with God’s plans to make him king over Israel one day.
In the heading of Psalm 57, it is referred to as a miktam of David. According to The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, a miktam of David means a secret of David. A closer look at this psalm will reveal some of the secrets concerning prayer during those times when life seems like one big question mark. When nothing David perceived made sense, what gave him assurance and peace concerning God’s sovereign control over all the events of his life? What was the secret of his stability and confidence in the face of daunting circumstances?
God is a Sovereign Refuge. “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psa. 57:1, NIV). In the face of danger and uncertainty, David fled to the refuge of his God. Even as he hid in the innermost recesses of a cave, he sheltered his soul deep in the shadow of his Father’s wings. But where is this place, and how can we find it?
In the phrase “shadow of your wings,” the word for wings is the word which in the original language also meant skirt, or corner of a garment. These words refer to the four-cornered prayer shawl or tallit of the Hebrew man to which highly symbolic tassels are affixed. In Numbers 15, God told the Israelites to attach these tassels so that they might be reminded to obey His commandments. The blue cord symbolized His sovereign authority; the 613 knots in the tassels represented every one of the laws of Moses. Praying under the shawl symbolized yieldedness to the authority of God.
The act of praying under the prayer shawl also symbolized a desire to come into the presence of God. To enter into His presence was to enter into His rest; there one could find peace even when navigating the stormiest of life’s seas. David’s place of refuge was, therefore, both the protective, sovereign authority and presence of his God….”
©2005 by Patricia S. Baker
*Excerpt, first printed in The Breakthrough Intercessor, (Summer 2005, Vol. 26, Number 3, pp. 28-31).