O LORD, give ear to what I say; think on me as I sigh, And listen, O my King and God, As I plead earnestly for help, because to you I cry.
At dawning of the day, O LORD, you listen to my plea; As morning light returns again, I lay before you my requests and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who will in evil take delight; With you the wicked cannot dwell, Nor can the proud and boastful stay one moment in your sight.
You hate all those who practise wrong, and liars you destroy. These are the ones the LORD abhors— All who go thirsting after blood and who deceit employ.
But by your mercy and your grace to your house I’ll draw near; I will bow down in reverence Towards your holy temple, LORD, and worship you in fear.
LORD, lead me in your righteousness or I will go astray Because of all my enemies; Make straight the path in front of me, and guide me in your way.
No word that issues from their mouth can anyone believe; Destructive thoughts control their heart. Their throat is like an open grave; their tongue speaks to deceive.
O God, declare their guilt; let them by their own schemes be caught. Expel them from your presence, LORD, For in committing many sins rebellion they have wrought.
But let all those who flee to you rejoice with confidence; Let them at all times sing for joy. Spread your protection over them and be their strong defence.
So those who truly love your name will give a joyful shout. Surely you bless the righteous, LORD; Your favour keeps them safe from harm and shields them round about.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the haunting tune Binney here. It can also be sung to the tune Orlington which you can hear here.
Prayer is a passionately engaged activity. It was Peter who taught me that many years ago. Peter suffered with schizophrenia and during his homeless years marched from London to the town in which I then lived. He said that as he marched, prayers were squeezed out of him like toothpaste. ‘Not your churchy prayers’ he said. Ever since, I have wondered about the prayers of a desperate heart.
Thus here in the psalmist’s cry, we are reminded of the persevering, trusting call of the human pilgrim to the God of moral purpose. As day dawns, the psalmist cries out for God to vindicate himself. Despite that very human experience of seeing wrong flourish in many different ways whilst the innocent suffer, the cry is still uttered God save the people, Lord, not crowns and thrones but people.
Whilst the destruction of liars and wrongdoers, may not echo the tones of forgiveness, it may be understandable in less insulated contexts in which brutality seems set to triumph amid a smokescreen of lies and half truths.
Lord of all, quicken within me a longing to see your kingdom come in the many places which you draw to my attention. Help me to pray with patience and perseverance, in the sure knowledge that you will hear and answer. I rejoice in you to whom the world looks in hope. Amen
The Rev’d Richard Church is the Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and a member of Islington URC.