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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 13

Written by Christopher Landau, posted on Saturday, April 4, 2020

Edmund NeweyIn 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

wintry treesPsalm 85

LORD, thou art become gracious unto thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the offence of thy people: and covered all their sins.
Thou hast taken away all thy displeasure: and turned thyself from thy wrathful indignation.
Turn us then, O God our Saviour: and let thine anger cease from us.
Wilt thou be displeased at us for ever: and wilt thou stretch out thy wrath from one generation to another?
Wilt thou not turn again, and quicken us: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Shew us thy mercy, O Lord: and grant us thy salvation.
I will hearken what the Lord God will say concerning me: for he shall speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, that they turn not again.
For his salvation is nigh them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall flourish out of the earth: and righteousness hath looked down from heaven.
Yea, the Lord shall shew loving-kindness: and our land shall give her increase.
Righteousness shall go before him: and he shall direct his going in the way.


One of the encouragements found within the Psalms, at a time such as this, is their sense of perspective: through the centuries, they remind us that although our current circumstances are undeniably strange and destabilising, God’s people have often experienced dislocation and bewilderment.

This psalm recalls God’s faithfulness in the past – the fortunes of Jacob were restored, and favour was shown to the land – and this is inescapably associated here with the forgiveness offered in the face of iniquity and sin.

God’s love is unfailing (v.7) and salvation is near to those who fear him (v.9) – and if his people return to him, then glory returns, and as verse ten puts it, ‘love and faithfulness meet together.’

Eugene Peterson rendered that phrase, ‘Love and Truth meet in the street’, which reminds me of the touching scenes nationwide at 8pm on 26th March, when people stood on their doorsteps and applauded the work of the National Health Service.

That seemed a small but real sign of a nation seeking to honour and celebrate rather than criticise or complain; in this psalm, righteousness and peace kiss each other – and call to mind a hope that is bigger than any momentary crisis.

Christopher Landau