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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 35

Written by Edmund Newey, posted on Thursday, May 7, 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

Sunlight in woodsPsalm 117

  O praise the Lord, all ye heathen *
 praise him, all ye nations.
  For his merciful kindness is ever more and more towards us *
 and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise the Lord.

I first came to know this psalm well as an ordinand in the late 1990s. Amidst all the thousands of words about God that surrounded me as a theological student its brevity was a blessing. It still is.

This psalm is call to worship; or, perhaps better, a call in verse one and a response in verse two, very much like the liturgical exchanges that are still the backbone of Christian worship in every tradition today.

And the call is not just to the chosen people of Israel, but to all nations everywhere – ‘ye heathen’ as our translation puts it. As John Eaton says, ‘It is the wonder of the psalms that they find a bridge between the chosen people and the whole created order, a bridge so easily traversed that there sometimes seems no division to cross’. Praying this psalm, we are joined as one with all the human race – past, present and future – and with God, whose merciful kindness encompasses all that was, is and shall be.