Thursday, 17 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
17 March 2022 (Psalms 37)

Saint Patrick depicted on the cladding during recent restoration work at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin … today is Saint Patrick’s Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, and the national celebrations throughout Ireland are expected to be the most joyful since the Covid pandemic restrictions introduced two years ago. Before today begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 37:

Psalm 37 is thought to have been written by King David in his old age. In the slightly different numbering in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations it counted as Psalm 36.

Psalm 37 is a response to the problem of evil, which often expressed in the Bible as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? It addresses one of the great dilemmas in Scripture: why do the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous are suffering?

The psalm answers that this situation is only temporary: God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.

Psalm 37 has the form of an acrostic Hebrew poem. It is written as an acrostic and is divided into discrete sections. Each section ends with God’s resolution of the question.

The psalm has also been understood as a prayer of the persecuted who has taken refuge in the Temple or figuratively of refuge in God.

The psalm concludes with a plea to God for those who honour him, to bless them with his justice and to protect them from the snares of the wicked.

‘Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psalm 37: 4) … candlelight in the choir stalls in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 37 (NRSVA):

Of David.

1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret – it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous,
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked perish,
and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish – like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
but the righteous are generous and keep giving;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.

27 Depart from evil, and do good;
so you shall abide for ever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land,
and live in it for ever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak justice.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watch for the righteous,
and seek to kill them.
33 The Lord will not abandon them to their power,
or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.

35 I have seen the wicked oppressing,
and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.
36 Again I passed by, and they were no more;
though I sought them, they could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,
for there is posterity for the peaceable.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary has a particular focus on Ireland and the Church of Ireland this week, and I introduced this theme in the prayer diary on Sunday (13 March 2022). The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (17 March 2022, Saint Patrick’s Day) invites us to pray:

Today we pray for the Church of Ireland and give thanks for the life and legacy of Saint Patrick.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him’ (Psalm 37: 6) … inside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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