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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 32

Written by David Knight, posted on Monday, May 4, 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

Light breaking through cloudsPSALM 46

Deus noster refugium

  1. GOD is our hope and strength: a very present help in trouble.
  2. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved: and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea;
  3. Though the waters thereof rage and swell: and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same.
  4. The rivers of the flood thereof shall make glad the city of God: the holy place of the tabernacle of the most Highest.
  5. God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed: God shall help her, and that right early.
  6. The heathen make much ado, and the kingdoms are moved: but God hath shewed his voice, and the earth shall melt away.
  7. The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our refuge.
  8. O come hither, and behold the works of the Lord: what destruction he hath brought upon the earth.
  9. He maketh wars to cease in all the world: he breaketh the bow, and knappeth the spear in sunder, and burneth the chariots in the fire.
  10. Be still then, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, and I will be exalted in the earth.
  11. The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our refuge.

This is one of the psalms which expresses a robust trust and confidence in God in every situation in which we might find ourselves. Martin Luther was said to use it when he was depressed and could burst into song with ‘Ein Feste Burg’ –‘ A safe stronghold our God is still’. It’s a hymn we regularly use today and, rather surprisingly, we even continue to use one of Luther’s tunes. You can also find ‘God is our strength and refuge’ in our modern hymnbooks, sung to the rousing Dambusters’ March.

As one of the Hymns of Zion, possibly originally used at a New Year Festival, we join in with all the other worshippers acknowledging God as the God of all human beings. We are drawn into bold exciting worship, complete with instrumental accompaniment [though we don’t know what the original instrument was], and honour God as King, as Lord of all and Jesus as Emmanuel, God is with us.

Then, in the middle of all that noise we are suddenly called to silence as we realize the presence of God. We are to be still and come to realize that he is God, not just of our own little group, but of all human beings and the whole of creation.

David Knight