1 Hear, O LORD, and answer me; I am poor, and needy too. 2 Guard my life; save me, my God, For your servant trusts in you.
3 Lord, be merciful to me; All day long to you I call. 4 Give your servant joy, O Lord, For to you I lift my soul.
5 You, O Lord, alone are good; You are ready to forgive. To all those who call on you, You abound in steadfast love.
6 Hear my earnest prayer, O LORD; Listen to my troubled cry. 7 In distress I’ll call on you, For in mercy you’ll reply.
8 Lord, among the many gods There is none to rival you; Deeds that others may perform Never match what you can do.
9 Lord, the nations you have made Will come near and praise your name. 10 You alone are God; your deeds Bring to you outstanding fame.
11 Teach me, LORD, your way, that I From your truth may not depart; So that I may fear your name, Give me a devoted heart.
12 Lord, with all my heart I will Praise your name unceasingly. 13 For your love to me is great; From the grave you rescued me.
14 Proud men are attacking me; And the ruthless men of strife, Who have no regard for God, Seek to take away my life.
15 But, Lord, you are merciful, God of grace and tenderness, Slow to anger, rich in love And in cov’nant faithfulness.
16 Turn your face towards me, Lord, And to me compassion show. Give me strength and save my life; On your servant grace bestow.
17 Grant a sign of favour, LORD, Which my enemies may see; Then they will be put to shame, For you help and comfort me.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Harts here.
This Psalm reminds me of moments of loneliness in the life of discipleship. The Psalmist’s voice is the cry of the individual against the ruthlessness of those around who have no regard for God. Even as I write that, it occurs that sometimes injuries are caused by ‘friendly fire’, by those within the community of faith as well. Often it is not possible to rehearse these injuries, compounding the sense of isolation as we try to walk Christ’s way.
Yet there is something else in the structure of this Psalm which is worth noticing. That is the movement in the Psalm between petition and praise. Thus the deeply personal cry of verses 1- 4 finds a counterpoint in the praise of verse 5. This movement continues through the Psalm. In what way does this help us in our individual walk?
Dom Erik Varden has written of the Shattering of Loneliness by acts of remembrance. That is what the Psalmist is doing here. After each lament come a specific remembrance of the nature of the God in whom hope is placed. It is particularly evident between verses 14 and 15.
God, grant me confidence, that through unseen trials and unheard cries, you will still quicken remembrance within me of your unchanging love and compassion. I praise you for your faithful purposes, the riches of your love, available to me and to all my fellow travellers, lifting us out of the pit of hopelessness, free to hope in you afresh, making fresh start on our pilgrimage with Jesus, Amen
The Rev’d Richard Church, is a member of Streatham URC, Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship)