1 O God, you are my God alone; I seek your face with eagerness. My soul and body thirst for you In this dry, weary wilderness.
2 I’ve seen you in your holy place; Your power and glory held my gaze. 3 Far better is your love than life, And so my lips will sing your praise.
4 I’ll bless you, Lord, throughout my life And raise my hands to you in prayer. 5 My joyful lips will sing your praise; My soul is fed with richest fare.
6 Upon my bed I lie awake And in my thoughts remember you; I meditate throughout the night And keep your constant love in view.
7 Because you are my help alone, In shadow of your wings I’ll sing. 8 You hold me up with your right hand; To you, O God, my soul will cling.
9 All those who seek my life will die; Down to the depths they will descend. 10 They will become the jackal’s food; The deadly sword will bring their end.
11 The king will then rejoice in God, With all who swear by God’s great name. The mouths of liars will be closed, And they will all be put to shame.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Crasselius here
The singing, or recitation, of Psalms has rather fallen out of fashion in many Protestant churches. Our hymnbooks have settings of them but they are rarely used; churches which use the lectionary may not have the Psalm read as one of the four readings. There are many good reasons for this but it’s a shame as we become disconnected with the range of emotions that the Psalmists convey.
In the first stanza of today’s Psalm, for example, we read of a physical longing for God – it brings to my mind generations of monks and nuns who, in the small hours of the night and the long hours of the day, come to chapel to sing the Psalms. People who have such a need of God that they leave their normal lives to devote themselves to prayer, worship and work never fail to impress me. The radical monastic commitment was transformed at the Reformation with the family being seen as the place for the primary encounter with God and family devotions became the hallmark of good Protestant households; though the vocation to monastic life continues to enrich the Church.
In our complex lives I suspect we don’t pray together much as families – I hope I’m wrong – and monastic life is outwith the experience of the Reformed tradition. However, we still have those inner yearnings for God that the Psalmist identifies and monks and nuns seek to explore. We still live in an arid wilderness where our souls and bodies thirst for God. We still aspire, as in the third stanza, to praise God and have our souls fed with His richest fare.
The challenge for us is to discover, or rediscover, how to get the rhythm of prayer, worship, silence, work, family time and recreation right so that we balance the need to be in God’s presence, enriched by His grace and, at the same time, live our out vocation in the world.
O God, help me to recognise the longing in my being for you, help me to seek you with eagerness, to understand how my soul and body thirst for you in this arid land. Help me to bless you with my life, to pray and praise you, that my lips will sing your praise, and my life reflect your glory. Amen
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a Minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving churches in Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton.
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