Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm :
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
Breath Prayer: I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often. Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise. This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine. Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.
I don’t know which Star Trek character I identify with, (mostly because buzz feed hasn’t made a quiz for that yet), but I do know is that I identify with having a blue or gold uniform. I don’t want to be in a red shirt, the crew members in red shirts always die. And somehow, I want to think that believing in God, allows me to trade my red shirt for blue, and be more important to the plot than I really am. But that’s not how faith works.
God does not promise to suddenly deliver us from our current circumstances like the crew of the Starship Enterprise being beamed back onto the ship just in time. God is not going to suddenly put an end to COVID-19, racial injustice, loneliness, despair, or any of the conditions that cause us to fear. If you’ve read even a few Psalms, it seems “that human life is always lived under threat, in the midst of opposition, either from ourselves or from others or from some external circumstance.” (NIB p. 460) God never promised this life would be easy but God does promise that nothing in this world can separate us from her love. What I find remarkable about the Psalms of lament, is that somewhere in the midst of despair, the psalmist remembers to trust in God. Even though the conditions the psalmist is facing may not change, he or she does change. His or her attitude shifts from one of fear to peace, and sometimes, even gratitude. This shift comes when the psalmist remembers to trust in God.
There seems to always be a temptation to trust in ourselves, in our abilities, or in what we imagine are our resources and security. But things don’t always go as planned. We can’t control everything. And when I feel the need to be in control, I have to remind myself that I’m not in control. I can not move the earth, make the sun rise, or pull the tides like the moon. Sometimes, my breath prayer is simply “you are God, and I am not”. And there is something calming in that. The vastness of God makes whatever I’m worried about seem small. Sometimes, taking a day off or a week off to just watch what God is doing when I’m not doing anything can help to remind me that God has everything under control. Especially after taking a vacation, allowing things go undone on my to do list, I can see that the world did not fall apart when I let go a little. I do not need to overwork or be in control all of the time. The God who loves us all is the one in charge. The greatness of God’s love can even move a miserable psalmist like me to gratitude.
In a world full of despair, I can choose hope. In a world full of scarcity, I can choose generosity. In a world full of anger, I can choose love.
I can do this because God is ultimately the keeper of my life in this world and the next.
Psalm 56: 9b-13
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I am not afraid.
What can a mere mortal do to me?
12 My vows to you I must perform, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Let us pray:
Holy God, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. By what we have done and by what we have failed to do. One way or another, sin clouds our vision, selfishness distracts us from your will, and pride undermines the loyal service we would render you. Forgive us, Lord, and restore us to a right and proper relationships to you and all people. When the day discloses our work, we will most assuredly be saved and the works that you have given us to do may prove to be endowed with your Spirit. Amen.
(Adapted from Year D, Greater Attention Liturgical elements for Reformed Worship)
God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your light and release my fear. You can always pick different words for your breath prayer. But the idea of a breath prayer is to keep it simple so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“the psalmist professes that true security is a divine gift rather than a human achievement” NIB p. 459
“In a sense, the psalmist cows all too well what others can “do to me” — trample, oppress, fight, plot, conspire, lurk (vv. 1-2, 5-6). But in a deeper sense, the psalmist knows the her or his life is known by God (v. 8, reading the verb in v. 8a with the NRSV as an indicative, the subject of which is an emphatic you; on “tears,” see Ps 6:6; on God’s keeping a “record” see Ps 40:7).” NIB p. 459
“The point is that, regardless of outward circumstances, the psalmist has been transformed by trust. While current or future opposition may cause fear, the psalmist will always be able to say, “I will not be afraid” (vv. 4,11). This ability is not an act of human bravery or courage but a result of the conviction that the life God offers is beyond the reach of human threat (vv. 4, 11). Thus, in the face of every threat, the psalmist will be able to live with gratitude (v. 12; see also Pss 50:14, 23; 107:22; 116:17). To “walk before God” (v. 13), or more literally, source of light (see Job 33:30; see “light” in Pss 4:6; 27:1; 43:3; 89:15) and life (see Pss 116:8-9; 36:9).” NIB p. 459
“A persistent temptation, of course, is to trust ourselves, our abilities or achievements, our resources, as do the Psalmist’s opponents” NIB p. 459
“Psalm 56 does not suggest that God suddenly or even eventually removes the conditions that cause the psalmist to be afraid. What it and the other prayers teach us is that human life is always lived under threat, in the midst of opposition, either from ourselves or from others or from some external circumstance.” NIB p. 460
“The psalmist’s affirmation of a trust that moves the self from “afraid” to “not afraid” suggests that the opposite of faith is not so much doubt as it is fear.” NIB p. 460
“The final phrase of Psalm 56 cannot help reminding Christian readers of Jesus’ words in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (NRSV). Again, Jesus did not promise his followers a life free of threat (see John 15:18-25; 16:33; 17: 14-15), but he did promise a peace greater than the world can give, a peace that means ultimately living unafraid (see John 14:27). This peace is the real subject of Psalm 56.” NIB p. 460 Maybe it would be better to say Christians can’t help but hear Jesus’ “I am the light of the world” when they read the final phrase of Psalm 56. The Psalms were written before John’s gospel.
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Other Year D Psalm blog posts:
I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.
I began this series in Lent 2020. These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises. Here are the links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35. I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again.
I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.
The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.
Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year. Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.
Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.