I was trained for the ministry alongside Lutherans: we enjoyed a rather high-church pair of services each week and I have never forgotten the response sung at Vespers which came from this Psalm: the minister intoned: ‘Let my prayer be set before thee as incense’: we sang back: ‘And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice’. But my take on this Psalm (and the two either side of it, Psalms 140 and 142) is that they are a thousand miles away from the temple/monastery/cathedral orderly kind of meditative formal worship (or even the intoxicating repetitions in today’s audio). They are the desperate plea of a soldier of God, whether on campaign with David in Judaean highlands or trying not to get sucked into the consumer pleasures of Babylon. He shouts to the Lord: Come quick and help me. He throws up his arms toward heaven in an imploring gesture. ‘Listen to me God. Shut my mouth if I’m about to say something wrong; don’t let me even think it. Keep me from joining in the wickedness going on around here; even the stuff that seems fun. No, I would rather the good people beside me forcibly hold me back. Yes, he sounds like a Puritan, and all the better for that, a real non-conformist refusing to go along with the ways of the world. His prayer was taught again by Jesus: ‘Don’t let us be led into temptation, rescue us from evil.’ He turns to God again. ‘My eyes are fixed on you, you are my king. I know it’s going to be tough. Keep me on the straight and narrow. And don’t let me make a mess of it. Give me faithful companions, true Christian friends who won’t let me go off-track’.
Lord, you know my temptations; I know them too. Keep me from making the same mistakes again Keep me from going along with the crowd, but, Lord, keep me from being a prig And help me to find gentle, tactful ways of saying ‘No thank-you. Amen
The Revd Geoffrey Roper, retired minister living in Thames North Synod