With grateful heart my thanks I bring, before the great your praise I sing; I worship in your holy place and praise you for your truth and grace; for truth and grace together shine in your most holy word divine, in your most holy word divine.
2 I cried to you, and you did save; your word of grace new courage gave; the kings of earth shall thank you, Lord, for they have heard your wondrous word; yea, they shall come with songs of praise, for great and glorious are your ways, for great and glorious are your ways.
3 O Lord, enthroned in glory bright, you reign above in heav’nly height; the proud in vain your favour seek but you have mercy for the meek; through trouble though my pathway be, you will revive and strengthen me, you will revive and strengthen me.
4 You will stretch forth your mighty arm to save me when my foes alarm; the work you have for me begun shall by your grace be fully done; your mercy shall forever be; O Lord, my Maker, think on me, O Lord, my Maker think on me.
As we learn more about our faith, we are often encouraged to be critical (often qualified by ‘in the best sense of the word’). We are taught how to ask questions, how to interrogate a text, to read against the grain or from the margins. These are all good things to do. And it’s possible to do these while also nurturing the deep-rooted trust that faith in God can become.
Perhaps many of us look with longing at those whose faith seems so strong that it can be sustained through the most awful troubles and tests. We venerate those for whom thanksgiving and praise, rather than suspicion or cynicism, are their default thoughts and prayers. We aspire to faith that can focus on the great and glorious ways of God and trust God for the present and the future, while being neither naïve nor infantile about the past.
This psalm can sound rather complacent, innocent of the world, confident in God in ways that might seem uncritical and unthought. But in the lines there are hints that the writer has known pain, cried out to God to be rescued, found trouble on the pathways of life, and yet has trust in God. At the end the writer asks for God’s thoughts and attention, knowing, I suppose, that in the future, there will again be cries uttered and pity (or mercy) needed.
A life of prayer can be one in which we can be scrupulously honest about our pain and our thoughts, but also utterly trusting of God. We can rest in a place where critique, sometimes borne of pain, is acknowledged, but also where we still trust God to hear us. The deepest faith, and the best wisdom, lies neither in cynical rejection of God’s trustworthiness nor in the denial of our and others’ pain, but in the acceptance that both can stand together.
I can do a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ with the best of them, but I stand before God in my prayers asking for the faith to trust. O Lord, my maker, think on me.
O God, I want to love you with all my mind, with all my heart, and with all my strength. Think on me, as I think about you. Hold me, as I grow in love for you. Give me strength, to live this human life. And let me trust, that your work in me, will be completed. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber, World Council of Churches President from Europe