Weariness saps our vision and energy. We cannot concentrate on our goals because our weariness distracts our focus. I remember a general’s embarrassment when he had an automobile accident when he drove while impaired. He told his soldiers that he had learned an important lesson. The general was not under the influence alcohol or drugs that evening. No, he was completely sober. However, he had decided to embark on a road trip after a long and taxing day at work. His fatigue was so great that he lost focus and drifted off the road. Weariness impaired him. Grief wearies us as well, as does working on edge, with a sense that we must look over our shoulders for other’s approval while we work. When we sense disapproval, or even worse, contempt directed towards us continually, that sense begins to drain us. We become weary and frustrated at our failure to earn respect.
As travelers on their way to worship sing in Psalm 123, they voice a prayer that reveals their weariness, and also their yearning for God to intervene, to signal his approval of them, to show mercy when they have been worn out by contempt from others. They begin their prayer much as Jesus would begin what many call “The Lord’s Prayer,” by acknowledging the power and holiness of God:
“To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1).
They reflect on their dependence on God as they continue their prayer. Their (and our) relationship to God is like that of a servant or slave to a master. They and we search for signs of approval. The servant depends upon the master for income and for food. The worshipers continue,
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2).
They need mercy, they yearn compassion, and so they pray. The inspiration for their prayer emerges as it concludes. This prayer for mercy has its origin in the worshipers’ perceiving contempt in others who did not work as hard or who were proud of their status in society. The arrogance these others displayed had drained the worshipers. It had frustrated them. It had wearied them. They had had enough! They prayed,
“Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt, our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud” (Psalm 123:3-4).
As we read their prayer, we feel their weariness. I have felt so very tired when it seemed that nothing that I did pleased others, whether they were supervisors, peers, or those I was privileged to lead. In my frustration and my anger, as I found it harder to envision new, fresh direction, the words of Psalm 123 found a home in my prayers: “Lord, have mercy, for we have had enough of contempt.” Sometimes, we may earn contempt through ineptness or silliness. At other times, people scorn and mock because they do not know enough to understand what we have said or appreciate what we have done. In the psalm, the singers describe the scorners as “at ease” and “proud.” The scorners make it harder for the singers, for they grant them no respect. They, and we, turn in our weariness to the only one who can provide relief and refreshment that will endure.
This prayer challenges us also to be humble as we regard the efforts of others, to appreciate and respect what they do. The singers ask for God’s mercy, but they also desire that the “proud” will place more value on what they do, what they say, or what they believe. In American society, we are tempted to deride those with whom we disagree, to treat them along with their opinions and ways of living with contempt. This prayer reminds us that we all are as servants to the one who is “enthroned in the heavens.” Everyone needs to pray as we look to him, “Lord, have mercy.
- Quotations of the Bible are from the English Standard Version
O God enthroned in the heavens, we approach you and pray simply: Lord, have mercy on us. The pressures of life weigh us down. Disdain or contempt from our peers wearies us. Relieve the strain from our souls. Help us to remember our weariness and pain when we interact with others and are tempted to mock them for their ignorance or ineptitude. May we remember our struggles and treat others as we want to be treated. Lord, have mercy and light the way that we should walk. In Jesus’ name, Amen.