If you’re like me, it drives you crazy when you observe people advancing their careers through deceit, politicians acting corruptly, and swindlers using the COVID-19 crisis as a pretense to exploit others. And so, we wonder: Isn’t God going to do anything about this?
Prayer is a sure and steady weapon for times like these, and there’s no surer guide for prayer than the Psalms. This article shares five Psalms that teach us how to pray when the wicked prosper.
1. Psalm 37 – When Our Hearts Need a New Focus
Psalm 37 is probably best known for verse four, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a great promise, but one often plucked from the context of not envying the wicked. Verse four is one of several commands that help us focus our hearts during such times:
- “Trust in the Lord, and do good” (verse 3)
- “Delight yourself in the Lord” (verse 4)
- “Commit your way to the Lord” (verse 5)
These commands are often followed with the future results for both the righteous and the wicked: The wicked will “fade like the grass” (verse 2) and “be cut off” (verse 9), while God will make the innocence of the righteous plain to all (verses 5 and 6).
Verse 34 aptly summarizes the Psalm:
Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Father God, help me to trust in You and not focus on who or what bothers me right now. Be my stronghold and refuge in troubling times and make my heart look forward to my glorious future in Christ, one that will “inherit the land” of the new heavens and new earth and enjoy Your presence forever.
2. Psalm 73 – When We Grow Envious of the Wicked
Asaph struggled with envy, anger, and bitterness. To him, it seemed like the wicked faced no punishment or troubles like the rest of us. Such a thought is enough to derail one’s faith and betray God’s people (verse 15). What changed the equation for Asaph was entering the sanctuary of God and discerning the end of the wicked. Our God of perfect justice will give the wicked their deserved punishment (18–20). After confessing his sin (21–22), Asaph voiced his trust in God:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26)
Father God, I praise You for being a God of justice and righteousness. Thank you that I can always trust that You, the Judge of all the earth, to do right (Genesis 18:25). Please fix my mind on You and Your truth, not on what makes me bitter. Keep me from idolizing earthly comfort and be my greatest treasure.
3. Psalm 10 – When the Wicked Oppress the Vulnerable
Psalm 10 opens with the Psalmist crying out to God for seeming far off while the wicked pursue the poor. Filled with pride, the wicked act as if God never see their actions (verse 11) or call them to account (verse 13). And it may seem like that. But the Psalm ends affirming God’s justice and Lordship. It proclaims that He sees the trouble of the afflicted (verse 14), and will “do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (verse 18).
Father God, thank You that I can cry out to You even when you seem distant from my troubles. Please save the wicked from their sins, causing them to see Christ in His glory and repent of their wickedness. And if they don’t turn to You, bring justice on them in a way that will cause many to see and fear You. I am confident that one day You will bring perfect justice for the wicked and vindicate Your oppressed children.
[Listen to a sermon on this Psalm: How to Pray When the Wicked Seem to Be Winning]
4. Psalm 49 – When Cheaters Prosper Financially
Why does God allow the immoral to get rich while I’m struggling to get by? That’s the question behind this Psalm. The answer is to remember that no matter how rich or powerful the wicked get, they can’t take anything with them to the grave.
Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him. (Psalm 49:16-17)
Father God, it’s so easy for me to fear when sinners get rich at the expense of others. Help me to trust in You and Your provision, knowing that all earthly riches, power, and acclaim are temporary, but our heavenly rewards in Christ are eternal. Help me remember how You will raise Your children one day for reward and the wicked for disaster, and to live accordingly. Thank You that Jesus took the punishment that we deserve.
5. Psalm 2 – When World Leaders (Including Your Own) Drive You Crazy
When the nations and their leaders plot against Christ and His Kingdom (verses 1–3), God’s response is telling. He doesn’t sit in heaven wringing His hands in despair; He laughs (verse 4). He has all power in the universe and has appointed His chosen King, His Son Jesus, over the nations as ruler and judge.
Our response? Worship and service to this King (verses 10–12). As we submit to Him as Lord, the final phrase of the psalm becomes true of us, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
Father God, so many in this world don’t like Jesus or His followers. Help me have a realistic perspective of political drama and our raging nations, firmly fixing my eyes on Christ, my Lord and Savior and the King of all history. Help me to live confident in Your power as finite man rages against against You, and stir in me a great compassion for all who haven’t yet found the eternal blessing of refuge in Christ.
God Our Refuge
Prayer doesn’t usually change our situation immediately, but it changes us. We grow in trust of our sovereign God, and take refuge that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).
Our situation may stay the same or get worse in the short-term, but we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) in Christ and will see God’s justice in due time. Until then, take refuge in God through prayer.
Editor’s Note: Kevin Halloran’s new book is When Prayer Is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer (P&R, 2021). Pastor Colin Smith called the book, “A treasure chest of wise and practical counsel. . . . This book will expand your horizons and give you a new vision for how you can pray more effectively.”