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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 16

Written by Christopher Landau, posted on Tuesday, April 14, 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 5

PONDER my words, O Lord: consider my meditation

O hearken thou unto the voice of my calling, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I make my prayer.

My voice shalt thou hear betimes, O Lord: early in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

For thou art the God that hast no pleasure in wickedness: neither shall any evil dwell with thee.

Such as be foolish shall not stand in thy sight: for thou hatest all them that work vanity.

Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor both the blood-thirsty and deceitful man.

But as for me, I will come into thine house, even upon the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.

Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies: make thy way plain before my face.

For there is no faithfulness in his mouth: their inward parts are very wickedness.

Their throat is an open sepulchre: they flatter with their tongue.

Destroy thou them, O God; let them perish through their own imaginations: cast them out in the multitude of their ungodliness; for they have rebelled against thee.

And let all them that put their trust in thee rejoice: they shall ever be giving of thanks, because thou defendest them; they that love thy Name shall be joyful in thee;

For thou, Lord, wilt give thy blessing unto the righteous: and with thy favourable kindness wilt thou defend him as with a shield.


More than thirty years ago, the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote an article titled, ‘The Costly Loss of Lament’. His concern was that too often, the lamenting so present in the Psalter is airbrushed from the lived experience of faith.

Our instinctive response might be that a cathedral community need not fear such an outcome, given the rhythm of prayer that includes regular encounter with all the Psalms.

But at this time of national uncertainty and even emergency, does our individual life of prayer enable us to lament as the Psalmist does here? We might consider what it is for us, with our fears and requests, to lay them before the God who hears our voice.

This Psalm is unabashed about the awfulness of enemies: ‘let their intrigues be their downfall’ (v.10). But its focus is much more on the joy that is found when our refuge is in God (v.11), and when that refuge is acknowledged as a place of blessing and protection.

Then, to lament is to be honest before God about the gap between our present reality and the hope he sets before us; and to be reassured, that our petitions are heard.

Christopher Landau