18 July 2022
Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
18 July 2022 (Psalm 145)
It is four months today since I suffered a stroke and was rushed to Milton Keynes Hospital (18 March 2022). Ten days later, I was moved to the Neurology Department in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. I continue to make progress, and I thank all involved in praying for me, caring for me and loving me through these four months:
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name for ever and ever (Psalm 145: 1-2).
In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (18 July 2022) commemorates Elizabeth Ferard, the first deaconess of the Church of England and founder of the Community of Saint Andrew (1883). 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 145 is the eighth 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 144. This psalm often serves as a prayer in times of distress. Its opening words in Latin are: Exaltabo te Deus meus rex.
Psalm 145 is only one of the 150 Psalms that actually identifies itself as a תְּהִלָה (tehillah), as a psalm (namely, a hymn of praise): ‘David’s Psalm of praise.’ This psalm is a hymn, summarising the characteristics of God. In this psalm, we are asked to look forward to a future in which all will bless God’s holy name for ever.
This psalm or song is written as an acrostic poem, each verse beginning in sequence with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, praising God for his blessings and his love, and hoping for a future in which all will bless God’s holy name for ever.
For this purpose, the usual Hebrew numbering of verse 1, which begins with the title, ‘A Psalm of David,’ is ignored in favour of the non-Hebrew numbering which treats verse 1 as beginning ארוממך (Aromimkha, ‘I will exalt you’).
However, it is a curiosity of this psalm that, despite its structure, there is no verse beginning with the letter nun (נ), which would come between verses 13 and 14. This missing verse has since been supplied through other sources, including the Vulgate and the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations. (NRSVA).
Psalm 145 is also the last of the nine acrostic Psalms (Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145). It has three groups of seven verses:
1, verses 1-7 are about God’s praise throughout the generations;
2, verses 8-14 depict God’s kingship and compassion;
3, verses 15-21 are about prayer and how God hears it.
The psalm is built on numerical structures (3, 7, 10) that closely resemble the creation narrative in Genesis 1: 1 to 2: 3.
To this have been added two verses from other psalms at the beginning, which use the word Ashrei (happy) three times, and at the end.
The former Chief Rabbi, the late Lord (Jonathan) Sacks, says Psalm 145 epitomises the Book of Psalms as a whole, which begins with the word Ashrei and ends with the word Halleleluyah.
The Jewish sages saw Psalm 145 as the paradigm of praise, firstly because it is constructed as an alphabetic acrostic of praise, thus praising God with all the letters of the alphabet; second because it contains the verse ‘You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing’ (verse 16), encapsulating the idea that God not merely created the universe in the beginning, but also daily sustains it and the life it contains.
The phrase ‘Every day I will bless you’ (verse 2) in this psalm suggests that it be said daily. The Jewish sages specified that it should be said three times daily.
Towards the end of his life, Saint Francis of Assisi wrote ‘A Canticle of the Sun’ in 1225 based on Psalm 145 which William Henry Draper (1855-1933) adapted as ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ (1919).
Psalm 145 (NRSVA):
Praise. Of David.
1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendour of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name for ever and ever.
The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Turning Point,’ looking at the work of the Diocese of Kurunegala in the Church of Ceylon in Sri Lanka. This theme was introduced yesterday.
Monday 18 July 2022:
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
Let us pray for the Church of Ceylon, which serves the people of Sri Lanka. May they be blessed and supported in all they do to care for communities.
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