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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 24

Written by Philippa White, posted on Thursday, April 23, 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

Birds flying across sunset skyPsalm 19

THE heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

One day telleth another: and one night certifieth another.

There is neither speech nor language: but their voices are heard among them.

Their sound is gone out into all lands: and their words into the ends of the world.

In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun: which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.

It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of it again: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, and endureth for ever: the judgements of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb.

Moreover, by them is thy servant taught: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Who can tell how oft he offendeth: O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.

Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins, lest they get the dominion over me: so shall I be undefiled, and innocent from the great offence.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart: be alway acceptable in thy sight,

Lord: my strength, and my redeemer.

This is the first psalm I loved – in fact, it’s one of the first texts I ever loved. I read it first, not knowing it was a psalm, on the wall of the prayer room at the evangelistic holiday camp I went to aged 14. Something about it caught me. I took it home at the end of camp, put it up on my wall, and gradually the images became part of me, part of the set of phrases and images I reached for in prayer

This wisdom hymn is in two sections. The first half piles metaphor upon metaphor, describing the beauty, glory and wonder of creation and reminding us that all this beauty comes from God; all this glory is a reflection of the glory of God; all this wonder is simply to sing God’s praises. I especially love the image of the sun dressed in wedding finery, and running across the sky like Eric Liddell (‘God made me fast; and when I run I feel His pleasure.’)

The second half of the psalm focuses on us. In the context of this amazing creation, of heavens and firmament, day and night, sun and stars, what is the role of human beings? How do we tell out God’s glory? The answer is the Law, torah. Law is Wisdom through God’s gift: this Law is not a constraint, but perfect, reviving, wise.

And the psalm concludes with a prayer: a prayer that I and many others use before I preach, and for my life, a prayer that asks for the Wisdom of God to dwell in us and make us, in thought and word, God’s people, speaking God’s words and following God’s law.

Philippa White