Reflections on Morning Prayer – Week 18

Reflections on Morning Prayer – Week 18

If we have followed the liturgy, we will have now prepared ourselves really well to receive what God has to say to us through reading the Bible. The Anglican Church sets great store in encouraging everyone to read scripture regularly in their own language. However, the words themselves are only the means of communication – they only truly become God’s Word to us as they are in-breathed and applied to our hearts and minds through the work of the Holy Spirit. So it is good that we come to them prepared to receive his grace to meet our daily needs…

Every morning and evening we have three readings – and usually two are from the Old Testament. For many this will be surprising, as we may well naturally focus on the New Testament to support our faith. But all scripture points to Jesus Christ – and the Psalms have held a special place in the affections of Christians throughout the centuries. Contemporary worship songs come and go – and after ten years may even be forgotten; the psalms have stood the test of time as universal expressions of faith, as a hymn book for all seasons and circumstances.

The Psalms are essentially poetry, written by several authors, probably over many centuries. What makes them so special? There is clearly insufficient space to even begin to explore the richness and diversity of their contents. But here are a few general personal reflections:

Firstly, they express our close relationship with God from before the cradle to the grave:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made

Ps 139. 13, 14

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Ps 23. 4

Secondly, they provide for both an intimate personal response to God and a provision for public celebration of praise:

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Ps 141. 2

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

Ps. 98. 4-6

Thirdly, they speak to us in lament, helping us to seek forgiveness and comfort in painful circumstances and transforming them into joy:

Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

Ps. 5. 1,2

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea

Ps 46. 1,2

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Ps. 126. 5,6

However, we may find some aspects of reading the Psalms to be difficult, as they reflect on the invoking of God’s wrath on enemies, speaking of retribution and judgement. Also, we may have grown up with the traditional chanting of the words, which works wonderfully well in a choral evensong led by a cathedral choir, but rather less well in a small rural congregation. I have often wished for more contemporary worship songs to be composed based on the words of the psalms.

For the past few months, many Christians have referred to the comforting words from psalms in times of crisis, including a passage from Psalm 91:

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

Ps. 91. 9,10

We too pray for safety and God’s blessing to see us through this difficult season, and join with the psalmist’s refrain: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”