In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son recognizes his sin and comes to his senses, saying: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18– 19). It is an impassioned speech, given from a place of desperation.
Psalm 80 is a kind of Prodigal Son psalm. The nation of Israel cries out to God in the aftermath of a crisis. While they do not directly confess sin, they recognize that their plight is due to God’s judgment. They remind God, “You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful” (v. 5).
The Psalmist describes the nation of Israel as a vineyard that God has carefully planted and tended (vv. 8–11). But now God has broken down its walls: “Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it” (v. 13). What God has built, He has now destroyed. The people lament, “Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish” (v. 16).
The Psalmist begs God to remember that He is the “Shepherd of Israel” (v. 1). Three times he asks God: “Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (vv. 3, 7, 19). The people know that their only hope is that God would bring about repentance and restoration. They pray, “[R]evive us, and we will call on your name” (v. 18). While this prayer is rooted in Israel’s covenant relationship with God, we, too, can echo this cry.
>> When we wander away from the Lord, we can pray this psalm as a plea for restoration. Churches can pray it as a corporate confession. This prayer is rooted in the hope of Jesus, the Son of Man who makes our restoration possible (v. 17).
We lift our faces to You even in the shame of moral failure, spiritual forgetfulness, or open disobedience. “Revive us, and we will call on your name” (Ps. 80:18).