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The Lord our Light: Praying together with the Psalms 7

Written by David Knight, posted on Saturday, March 28, 2020

Edmund NeweyIn 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)

figure standing against night skyPsalm 91 

WHOSO dwelleth under the defence of the most High: shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my strong hold: my God, in him will I trust. 
For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter: and from the noisome pestilence. 
He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers: his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 
Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night: nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 
For the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day. 
A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee. 
Yea, with thine eyes shalt thou behold: and see the reward of the ungodly. 
For thou, Lord, art my hope: thou hast set thine house of defence very high. 
There shall no evil happen unto thee: neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 
For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways. 
They shall bear thee in their hands: that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone. 
Thou shalt go upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet. 
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my Name. 
He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him to honour. 
With long life will I satisfy him: and shew him my salvation.

There is no obvious title to this psalm in the Scriptures but it helps us feel God’s protection and encourages us to trust him in all things. Christians often say it at Night Prayer or Compline where we entrust ourselves to God during the hours of darkness.

We express our hope in God who will deliver us ‘from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.’ We shouldn’t be afraid of the ‘pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the sickness that destroys at noonday’ – words that strike home with particular force at the moment.  

The psalmist spells out his complete trust in God whatever the circumstances and the chaos going on around him, be it the plague or danger from hostile people. Verses 11 and 12 are quoted in the Gospels during the Temptation of Christ – but in that instance the Devil misuses the text and tries to bargain with God and manipulate the outcome. 

Finally, towards the end of the psalm we hear the assuring voice of God promising to deliver his people; those in relationship with God, who know God’s name. What is more, God is prepared to grant us a satisfying long life and the ‘salvation’, the health, to go with it. 

David Knight