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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 19

Written by David Meara, posted on Friday, April 17, 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

Musician playing trumpetPsalm 150

O PRAISE God in his holiness: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him in his noble acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him in the sound of the trumpet: praise him upon the lute and harp.

Praise him in the cymbals and dances: praise him upon the strings and pipe.

Praise him upon the well-tuned cymbals: praise him upon the loud cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath: praise the Lord.

Book of Common Prayer – Day 30 Evening Prayer

This is a final hymn of praise which ends the psalter, a ringing call to the whole of creation to give exuberant, ceaseless and resounding praise to the living God. Every musical instrument is to be used to proclaim His glory, and everyone is to join together in joyful song. We are to use trumpets, lutes, harps, tambourines, strings, pipes, cymbals and dance, a combination that will make a lot of noise and attract a lot of attention.

The psalm is, if you like, a call to honour and value the creative arts within the life of the church, and to make full use of them in our worship of God. But the psalm could also be interpreted metaphorically, as a call to find and experience harmony and rhythm in our lives and our relationships with others, to ‘make music together’ in the course of our daily living, so that together we become a symphony of praise to God. And to look beyond our own immediate desires and preoccupations to find beauty and joy in the people around us, in the work we do, and in the natural world.

However we approach this psalm, it is a reminder that the entire psalter is a rich and diverse prayer book and spiritual resource for Jews and Christians alike. The psalms seek to offer us, not explanation in the various ups and downs of human life, but a sense of meaning.

Many aspects of human life, such as undeserved suffering or the mystery of human love, are inexplicable, and the psalmist’s ability to plumb the depths of human experience enables him to help us find meaning in those parts of our lives that explanations fail to reach. And the final conclusion of this rich and rewarding book of spiritual resources is one of praise: ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’.

David Meara