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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 12

Written by Janet Proudman, posted on Friday, April 3, 2020

In these extraordinary times, as our nation and our world face the unprecedented challenge of the Coronavirus epidemic, our first task is naturally to support and enable the efforts of frontline staff tackling the disease and supporting those who have fallen ill. As we engage in every way we can with their work, we as Christians turn for guidance to God, in whom we have our origin and our end.

Here at Christ Church the book of Psalms – the prayer book of the Bible, as it is sometimes called – sustains our daily worship, now as always. Public worship is no longer an option, but the cathedral clergy here are maintaining the daily round of prayer and warmly encourage you to share in the spiritual communion that prayer makes possible across all boundaries of time and space.

At the core of this work of prayer the psalms voice the cry of our hearts to God. With this in mind the ministry team here is sharing one psalm each day with an accompanying reflection. Recalling the University of Oxford’s motto, Dominus illuminatio mea – ‘The Lord is my light’ – we pray that, together, we may know God’s strength, encouragement and blessing in this time of need.

‘The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear: the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1)

Edmund Newey, Sub Dean

Psalm 118


O GIVE thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious: because his mercy endureth for ever.
Let Israel now confess that he is gracious: and that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let the house of Aaron now confess: that his mercy endureth for ever.
Yea, let them now that fear the Lord confess: that his mercy endureth for ever.
I called upon the Lord in trouble: and the Lord heard me at large.
The Lord is on my side: I will not fear what man doeth unto me.
The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon mine enemies.
It is better to trust in the Lord: than to put any confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord: than to put any confidence in princes.
All nations compassed me round about: but in the Name of the Lord will I destroy them.
They kept me in on every side, they kept me in, I say, on every side: but in the Name of the Lord will I destroy them.
They came about me like bees, and are extinct even as the fire among the thorns: for in the Name of the Lord I will destroy them.
Thou hast thrust sore at me, that I might fall: but the Lord was my help.
The Lord is my strength, and my song: and is become my salvation.
The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass.
The right hand of the Lord hath the pre-eminence: the right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass.
I shall not die, but live: and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord hath chastened and corrected me: but he hath not given me over unto death.
Open me the gates of righteousness: that I may go into them, and give thanks unto the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord: the righteous shall enter into it.
I will thank thee, for thou hast heard me: and art become my salvation.
The same stone which the builders refused: is become the head-stone in the corner.
This is the Lord's doing: and it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Help me now, O Lord: O Lord, send us now prosperity.
Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord: we have wished you good luck , ye that are of the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord who hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, yea, even unto the horns of the altar.
Thou art my God, and I will thank thee: thou art my God, and I will praise thee.
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious: and his mercy endureth for ever.


‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.’

This wonderful psalm starts and ends with heartfelt praise, recounting God’s wonderful protection and salvation through all difficulties. These are described from the sweeping ‘All [enemy] nations surrounded me’ to the intimate ‘I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.’ In times of anxiety and distress the psalms can be a tremendous comfort to us, and have been so for God’s people for thousands of years. Every verse of this particular psalm is full of such truth and beauty.

It is believed that Psalm 118 is what Jesus and his disciples would have sung on the night of the Last Supper. It was Martin Luther’s most beloved psalm. ‘Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scripture are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore I call it my own.

When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is dearer to me than all the wealth, honour, and power of the Pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this psalm for all of it.’ David Livingstone had a verse of it on the wall of his room: ‘I shall not die but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.’ 

From my childhood I remember ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ It is worth spending time today to slowly read and prayerfully consider each verse of this psalm, as we try to live out God’s will for us and for the world, while resting in his protection and promised salvation.

‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.’

Janet Proudman