17 July 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
17 July 2022 (Psalm 144)

‘May our … daughters [be] like corner pillars, cut for the building of a palace’ (Psalm 144: 12) … the Caryatids on the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time, and today is the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (17 July 2022). Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary 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 144:

Psalm 144 is the seventh psalm in the final Davidic collection of psalms (Psalm 138 to Psalm 145) that are specifically attributed to David in their opening verses.

In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 143. This psalm often serves as a prayer in times of distress. Its opening words in Latin are: Benedictus Dominus.

Psalm 144 is attributed to David in the Masoretic text. The Septuagint has the additional specification of Τῷ Δαυΐδ, πρὸς τὸν Γολιάδ, ‘David against Goliath,’ putting the text in the context of the narrative of David’s fight against Goliath (see I Samuel 17).

The Jerusalem Bible notes that this psalm is in two parts: it refers to verses 1-11 as a ‘war hymn’ and suggests that verses 12-15 portray ‘the fruits of victory,’ and also by extension ‘the prosperity of the messianic age.’

Psalm 144 speaks with confidence about facing the battles that may lie ahead, and the blessings – human and material – that come from hard work.

The former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks describes this as a song that of a people who, trusting in God, face the future without fear.

Verse 12 says, ‘May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars, cut for the building of a palace.’ The Jerusalem Bible suggests that the psalmist may have in mind a caryatid, a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support.

The German poet Matthias Claudius wrote a poem, Wir pflügen und wir streuen (1782) inspired by Psalm 144. It was translated into English in 1862 by Jane Montgomery Campbell, and since then ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ has been a popular hymn associated with harvest celebrations.

‘May our barns be filled with produce of every kind’ (Psalm 144: 13) … a full barn on my grandmother’s former farm in Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 144 (NRSVA):

Of David.

1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
2 my rock and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues the peoples under me.

3 O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them,
or mortals that you think of them?
4 They are like a breath;
their days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
touch the mountains so that they smoke.
6 Make the lightning flash and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them.
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters,
from the hand of aliens,
8 whose mouths speak lies,
and whose right hands are false.

9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
10 the one who gives victory to kings,
who rescues his servant David.
11 Rescue me from the cruel sword,
and deliver me from the hand of aliens,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose right hands are false.

12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
cut for the building of a palace.
13 May our barns be filled
with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields,
14 and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.

15 Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Turning Point.’ It is introduced this morning:

The Diocese of Kurunegala in the Church of Ceylon runs a capacity building programme with support from USPG. This programme is conducted under the guidance of the Right Revd Keerthisiri Fernando, Bishop of Kurunegala, and Archdeacon George Melder.

As part of the programme, Bishop Keerthisiri led a session on the fundamentals of capacity-building: Tell, teach, tend, treasure and transform. Other sessions focused on self-motivation for different groups within society, particularly focusing on how children motivate themselves and gain self-confidence.

One child taking part in the programme said, ‘Today is a turning point in my life because I have been able to recognise my abilities and talents. I also learnt how to see my weaknesses as positives. I want to say thank you for this awesome experience, helping us learn about the life skills and abilities that we need to be good adults.’

Another child added that, ‘As students we never see the seriousness and importance of life skills - we just do what we are told. This training programme taught us how important it is to set a plan to motivate ourselves as well as others. We need to be bold and strong. Moving forwards, I hope to be a good communicator, collaborator, critical thinker and creator.’

Sunday 17 July 2022:

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Inspiring God,
may we encourage all around us.
Help us to motivate others
and be role models in our communities.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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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