Psalm 31:24 All you who wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage. CEB
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 31:
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.
There are two unique phrases in Psalm 31. The first is in verse 5 “Into your hands I commit my spirit” which Christians recognize as Jesus’ last words on the cross from the Gospel of Luke (23:46). “But in Hebrew and in the context of the psalm the sentence means something like “I entrust my life to your sovereign disposition”; it is an existential confession of ultimate helplessness, dependence, and trust, a way of saying in the midst of affliction, “It is up to you, God, what becomes of me, and I am willing to have it so.” The other unique sentence is a different way of saying the same. “My time is in your hand” (v. 15) does not mean it depends on God how long I live, but my destiny (the occasions when things happen that determine my life) is in the hand of God.” (Mays p. 144). Destiny is a difficult word to completely define, so I googled it. Most definitions have it as events that happen within a life time now or future, irresistible, fate, lot, predetermined, inevitable, beyond human power or control.
One of the ways Urban Dictionary Defines Destiny: “The girl who will steal your heart even when you’re not wanting to give it away. She’ll make you smile all the time and always be there for you when you need her, even after you’ve been a total ass. The girl who has a boyfriend who’s writing this for her to see one day randomly. Wow, that girl is gorgeous. I bet her name is Destiny. by s.a.m.man June 08, 2018″
Perhaps this girl reflects the image of God. Perhaps, God holds our hearts even when we don’t want to give them to God (we would rather let our identity be defined by worthless idols). She’s always there, even after we’ve been a total asses. Wow, that God is known as “the ‘el ’emet (v. 5), the God who can be relied on and believed in because [God] is true to [God’s character] and continues to always be what [God] has shown [God’s character to be].” Mays p. 143
In our living and dying we belong to God, who is know for faithful and steadfast love. “God’s faithfulness and love enable and empower the existence of a people who in turn can be faithful and loving to God and to each other. In our world–full of isolated selves and with “terror all around” (v. 13) — that good news incites a commitment to God and to the church that makes it possible to “be strong… take courage…wait for the LORD” (v. 24).” NIB p. 392
On election day, knowing my vote is already in as I wait for the results, I put my life in God’s steadfast and loving hands, knowing that she will always be there for me. My identity is not wrapped up in the candidate that I voted for or the one that will win (even as I hope they are one in the same). I belong to God. And because God is steadfast and loving, I will strive to be steadfast and loving to my neighbors, especially those who are the most dramatically effected by election results. The work for the common welfare does not end, because God’s work is steadfast and loving.
Let us pray:
One way to think about breath prayer is that whatever is exhaled other people will inhale. So, sometimes we might inhale and exhale the same idea with the hope that what we receive from God, we can share with others. For example, you may imagine receiving God’s steadfast love while praying that others are receiving God’s steadfast love.
Another way to think about breath prayer is to pick something you would like to receive for your inhalation and something you would like to release for your exhalation. The idea is to keep it simple, so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale. That simple prayer could be something like this: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your faithfulness and release my spirit into your hands. (Yep, broke my own rule about using one word).
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 31 gained a special place in Christian devotion and liturgy when Jesus in Luke’s Gospel used verse 5 as the final prayer of his life: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Like Psalms 22 and 69, Psalm 31 became a kind of commentary on the passion of Jesus; Christians read in its description of affliction a witness to the suffering he endured (read the comment on Psalm 22). In liturgical tradition it is inseparably connected to the celebration of Holy Week; currently, Psalm 31:9-16 is the psalm selection for Passion Sunday in all three years of the lectionary cycle.” Mays p. 142 If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will see that none of these psalms appear in Year D’s Holy Week selections. In year D this Psalm appears around the beginning of November with Nahum 1:9-15 or Ezekiel 20:32-49 Psalm 31: (1-5) 6-14 (15-16) 17-24 or 40: (1-11) 12-17; Luke 23:26-32; Romans 15:1-3, 14-33. The “or”s are choices for texts and the (x-x) are also choices to include or not certain verses in the readings.
“The psalm ends with a call to the faithful hasidim to love and rely on the LORD in need (vv. 23-24). The deliverance of the one who prays this prayer is a revelation of the way God deals with those who rely on him and the basis for summing them to a life of enduring trust.” Mays p. 143
“the confidence of the prayer is not in any respect a virtue of the one who prays. It is, rather, a possibility that is based on the character of the one to how the prayer is made. The psalm speaks to the LORD as the ‘el ’emet (v. 5), the God who can be relied on and believed in because he is true to himself and continues to always be what he has shown himself.” Mays p. 143
2 unique phrases: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” Vs. 5 “Because the sentence in Luke’s Gospel was the dying word of Jesus and because of similar words of the dying Stephan (Acts 7:59), it has been used by believers across the ages as the prayer with which to take leave of this life in faith…. But in Hebrew and in the context of the psalm the sentence means something like “I entrust my life to your sovereign disposition”; it is an existential confession of ultimate helplessness, dependence, and trust, a way of saying in the midst of affliction, “It is up to you, God, what becomes of me, and I am willing to have it so.” The other unique sentence is a different way of saying the same. “My time is in your hand” (v. 15) does not mean it depends on God how long I live, but my destiny (the occasions when things happen that determine my life) is in the hand of God. These are sentences that belong to living as well as dying. Indeed, it is a question whether they can be said at the end in authenticity unless they have been our confession all along the way.” Mays p. 144
“even through failure and death the providence of the faithful God determines the “times” of his servants. And they encourage and exhort us through the words of verses 23-24 to find love, strength, and courage in life and death through making their commitment of trust.” Mays p. 145
“To entrust our lives and futures to God, to belong to God in living and dying means ultimately that we derive our identity not from the worthless idols of our culture but form the character of God, to whom we entrust ourselves. The two fundamental characteristics of God that are emphasized in Psalm 31 are God’s faithfulness (v. 5) and God’s steadfast love (vv. 7, 16, 21), and the psalmist’s closing admonition addressed the people of God as God’s steadfastly loved (or loving) ones and “the faithful” (v. 23). God’s faithfulness and love enable and empower the existence of a people who in turn can be faithful and loving to God and to each other. In our world–full of isolated selves and with “terror all around” (v. 13) — that good news incites a commitment to God and to the church that makes it possible to “be strong… take courage…wait for the LORD” (v. 24).” NIB p. 392
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.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. Nashville, TN: Abington Press.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim 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.
The Apocalyptic Discourse 15th -19th Sundays in Ordinary time: 15th Sunday Psalm 17:8-14(15) or Psalm 83, 16th Sunday Psalm 54, 17th Sunday Psalm 50 or Psalm 105, 18thSunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ 24th – 33rd Sundays in Ordinary time: 24th Sunday Psalm 92, 25th Sunday Psalm 25, 26th Sunday Psalm 136, 27th Sunday Psalm 41, 29thSunday Psalm 38 or Psalm 55, 30th Sunday Psalm 33: (1-10) 13-22, 31st Sunday Psalm 31 or Psalm 40, 32nd Sunday Psalm 71:15-24, 33rd Sunday Psalm 77, Christ the King Psalm 87 and Psalm 117, and All Saints Day Psalm 107.