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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 41

Written by Philippa White, posted on Friday, May 15, 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

Chess players KingPsalm 72

Give the King thy judgements, O God : and thy righteousness unto the King's son.

Then shall he judge thy people according unto right : and defend the poor.

The mountains also shall bring peace : and the little hills righteousness unto the people.

He shall keep the simple folk by their right : defend the children of the poor, and punish the wrong-doer.

They shall fear thee, as long as the sun and moon endureth : from one generation to another.

He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool : even as the drops that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish : yea, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth.

His dominion shall be also from the one sea to the other : and from the flood unto the world's end.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall kneel before him : his enemies shall lick the dust.

The kings of Tharsis and of the isles shall give presents : the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts.

All kings shall fall down before him : all nations shall do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor when he crieth : the needy also, and him that hath no helper.

He shall be favourable to the simple and needy : and shall preserve the souls of the poor.

He shall deliver their souls from falsehood and wrong : and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

He shall live, and unto him shall be given of the gold of Arabia : prayer shall be made ever unto him, and daily shall he be praised.

There shall be an heap of corn in the earth, high upon the hills : his fruit shall shake like Libanus, and shall be green in the city like grass upon the earth.

His Name shall endure for ever; his Name shall remain under the sun among the posterities : which shall be blessed through him; and all the heathen shall praise him.

Blessed be the Lord God, even the God of Israel : which only doeth wondrous things;

And blessed be the Name of his majesty for ever : and all the earth shall be filled with his majesty. Amen, Amen. 

This royal psalm is a prayer about the relationship between a nation, its leaders and God. Perhaps written for the coronation of an Israelite king, or as a meditation on what it is to be a good king, it is a poem that sees the world in a very definite order. When the world runs correctly, according to the psalm, the king has absolute power over the nation but discharges his power according to God’s will. God gives the king justice, righteousness and wisdom, and accordingly the king brings peace, prosperity, plenteousness, flourishing and salvation – all of which give glory to God. 

Although we – rightly – reject the idea of absolute monarchies, the psalm is still worth reading. Christians are called to pray for their governments and, when I lead prayers, I often pray not just for governments and world leaders, but ‘for all whose decisions shape the future of others’. 

Like the vision of good government in this psalm, I pray that leaders and decision-makers would receive God’s gifts of wisdom, courage and insight, and be committed to the flourishing of all people. Then, as this psalm says, there will be abundance. People will blossom and families will flourish, and the glory of God will fill the whole earth. 

So let us, as we are called to, pray for all those in positions of authority – especially at this difficult time, when decisions are required so frequently and have such enormous effects. Let us pray for our prime minister, government, and opposition: asking for God to give them all justice and righteousness, that they may defend the poor; deliver the needy; discourage oppression; and allow righteousness to flourish and peace to abound, ‘so long as the moon endureth.’ 

Philippa White