Thursday, 3 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
3 March 2022 (Psalms 4, 5, 6)

‘Commune with your own heart upon your bed … in peace I will lie down and sleep’ (Psalm 4: 4, 8) … ‘every night I flood my bed with tears’ (Psalm 6: 6) … a traditional Cretan bedroom near Vryses (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Lent began yesterday, Ash Wednesday (2 March 2022). 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 4:

Psalm 4 is a prayer for delivery from personal enemies, and is a psalm of lament.

The psalm opens with a cry for help to God from the psalmist, who knows that God is on his side (‘of my right,’ verse 1). God has helped him in the past, and he hopes that God is now going to hear his plea.

The psalmist rebukes his foes who have falsely shamed and slandered him and lied about him (verse 2). They need to realise that God sees him as faithful, and hears his prayer (verse 3).

He then reminds himself to that he has no need to be disturbed, for God hears his prayers in silence (verse 4). In his prayer and worship, he can put his trust in God (verse 5). Despite what others may say, he can be confident in the presence of God (verse 6), who blesses him and meets his spiritual and physical needs (verse 7). God’s blessings offer such inner joy that he is now assured that he can sleep in peace, confident of God’s protection (verse 8).

Psalm 5:

Psalm 5 is known in Latin Verba mea auribus percipe Domine. The correct translation of the Hebrew word in the superscription (הַנְּחִילֹ֗ות) in the superscription is unclear; the NRSVA gives it as ‘for the flutes.’

This psalm, attributed to King David, is a reflection of how the righteous person prays for deliverance not only for freedom from suffering, but to allow himself to be able to serve God without distraction.

Psalm 5 is often associate with morning prayer. Hence verse 3: ‘O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.’

This is the first of five psalms (Psalms 5-9) all speaking of ‘the name of God.’ This psalm includes the theme of lament, which becomes a common genre in the Psalms.

This Psalm opens as a lament, continues with praise, and requests that God punish evildoers. The psalmist describes the throat of the wicked as an open sepulchre. The Psalmist ends with a blessing extended to all those who trust in God.

Psalm 6:

Psalm 6 is known in Latin as Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me (‘Answer me when I call, O God of my right’). It is attributed to King David and is said to have been written to serve as a prayer for anyone suffering from sickness or distress or for the state of the Kingdom of Israel while suffering through oppression.

This is the first of the seven Penitential Psalms, but is also understood as one of the Individual Lamentations.

Psalm 6 is in three parts. first, the psalmist addresses God, then he speaks for himself, and finally he speaks to his enemies.

Although it is not clear if he is innocent, he says he will be reinstated and that his opponents will be confounded. His trouble seems primarily psychological, but is also expressed through the body. It is as much the body as the soul of the psalmist cries out to God. In fact, it is also touched in his spiritual being, faced with the abandonment of God.

In the absence of God emerges the final hope of the Psalmist, expressed confidence cry in the concluding verses.

Psalm 4 (NRSVA):

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

2 How long, you people, shall my honour suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.

8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Psalm 5 (NRSVA):

To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down towards your holy temple
in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favour as with a shield.

Psalm 6 (NRSVA):

To the leader: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long?

4 Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?

6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.

Today’s Prayer:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (3 March 2022, World Wildlife Day) invites us to pray:

We pray for conservationists and animal rights activists working to protect wildlife in the UK and across the world.

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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