For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you. (Psalm 71:5-6)
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 71:
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 did a breath prayer video for my friends at Missing Peace.
Nicole Cardoza’s Guided Meditation For Anxiety
Try this short meditation, created by Yoga Foster and Reclamation Ventures founder Nicole Cardoza, the next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious. Read in Yoga Journal.
Mr. Roger’s “Taking a breath” This one is short, but Mr. Roger’s voice is calming for me (and many Pittsburghers) and even his virtual presence can summon childhood memories of calmness and safety.
Is this a cry for help or a psalm of praise? Yes. It is both. “More than most prayers for help, this one is focused on praise. The psalmist describes his life as occupied with praise and looks to a future whose days are full of praise (vv. 6,8, 14-19, 22-24)” Mays p. 235 Even when things seem bleak, this psalmist is sure that we can have hope for restoration and maybe even resurrection. Our hope is in God. And this hope is built up by generations of people telling the story of what God has done for them.
I like the image of God as midwife in this psalm. God delivers us, is present at our birth, as she has been for countless others and their mothers who are birthing for the first time. God the midwife knows what to expect, what may happen, and how to support new mothers with the wisdom she has learned at each birth. Mom’s hope for a safe delivery is in the midwife’s hands. Birth is both scary and joyful, or so I’m told by my mother who delivered me via emergency C-section when the planned delivery didn’t go as planned. She credits my survival to Magee Women’s hospital who has always had the best reputation for birthing generations of Pittsburgh children. Magee promises hope for a joy filled future to frightened mothers in the midst of difficult births. These new moms cry for help, praise the midwives and nurses, and joyfully embrace the bundle of joy and uncertainty they have delivered together. God the midwife has seen tragedy and joy. She knows there is hope in the future even in difficult and sad times. She knows what its like to feel grief and hope in the same moment and she will embrace you when it happens to you. Even in the face of death, there is hope in the life to come.
Friends, we are in the midst of difficult and uncertain times. I’m not going to run down the list of what has happened in 2020. I’m tired of the unprecedented list. In the midst of grief and hope, I acknowledge the grief and focus on hope. My hope comes from God, who has been with us through every difficult time and knows how to deliver even in the midst of chaos. My hope is in God’s people who have come through moments that were the end of life as they knew it, and have lived to tell the story. My hope is in God who is with me in life, in death, and in everything in between. My hope is in God whose kin-dom ever ends. Praise God, my deliverer, my comfort, my fortress, and my strength. May God be praised from generation to generation. Amen and Amen.
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 hope and release my dread.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“More than most, this psalm is composed using familiar formulaic phrases and motifs.” Mays p. 234
“Psalm 71 repeats sentences and motifs that appear in Psalms 22 and 31… Because both are used in the telling of the passion story, Psalm 71 has also been associated with the passion of Jesus and the services of Holy Week.” Mays p. 234
“Though a prayer for help, the psalm majors in assertions of trust, so much that confidence in God outweighs the concern with trouble. …. the LORD not only is an other who is out there but has reality and power in my hope and trust, is present to me in and through hope.” Mays pp. 234-235
“In the Old Testament the community can be viewed as old in times of decline an young in times of renewal (Hos. 2:17; 7:9; Jer. 2:2; Isa. 46:4). The psalm has been read corporately by the community of faith aware of its need of regeneration (the Masoretic text preserves a first person plural reading of v. 20).” Mays p. 235
“… advanced age has at least one major advantage: a long memory of God’s presence and of being taught to understand the ways of God (vv 6, 17). Hope in God (v 5) may become a more vital element of life for those who are both devout and old. These are the people who can tell a new generation about the mighty deeds of God (vv 16-18), if they will listen. They are people of wisdom whose knowledge and skill are essential. They are also the people who know the enduring wisdom is a gift from God.” WBC p. 218
“More than most prayers for help, this one is focused on praise. The psalmist describes his life as occupied with praise and looks to a future whose days are full of praise (vv. 6,8, 14-19, 22-24). When the psalmist speaks of singing praise to harp and lyre, a skill belonging to a special group (v. 22), and looks back on a divinely given teaching to proclaim the wondrous deeds of Israel’s salvation history (v. 17), the possibility is raised that the psalm is written as a prayer of one of the guild of temple singers. A psalmist whose work was to compose prayers for others and perform them for others here prays for himself.” Mays p. 235
“The speakers in the group of psalms to which 71 seems to belong identify their personal welfare with that of the nation (Pss 22:23-25c; 102:22-23). I the singular reading of these verses is adopted, they should be understood as statements of confidence, expressing praise for past deliverance and assurances about the future (cf. LXX; KJV; RSV). In the plural, however, v 19 is a hymn-like expression of praise, and v 20 is an acknowledgment of he troubles which Yahweh has allowed his people to see (the exile?), followed by supplications for renewal of life and deliverance from the depths of the netherworld (“depths of the earth” refers to the netherworld). The literal meaning of the language should not be pressed, but when read as the prayer of a speaker in advanced age it points to a resurrection-like restoration of life (with regard to the nation and the exile, cf. Exek 37:1-14; Isa 26:19-21). It is clear form other contexts that the language of the netherworld and the revival of life can be used in relation to the calamitous troubles of the living.” WBC p. 216
“In Sheol, life continued at minimal levels of vitality, devoid of praise or joy. The suppliant in Ps 71 speaks as one already in the depth of Sheol–though expecting to lie to old age! The plural reading evidently points to the nation’s similar condition because of the oppression of he exile.” WBC p. 216
Holy Week = Jesus is portent for many (v. 7) “It should be noted that we are all portents for someone.” Mays p. 236
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.
Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35, Maundy Thursday Psalm 115 or 113, Good Friday Psalm 88, Holy Saturday (Great Vigil) Psalms 7, 17, 44, 57 or 108, 119:145-176, 149.
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, 6th Sunday 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, 18th Sunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.
Prelude to the Passion 20th -23rd Sundays in Ordinary time: 20th Sunday Psalm 58, 21stSunday Psalm 140, 22nd Sunday Psalm 68 or Psalm 120 or Psalm 82, and 23rd Sunday Psalm 141.
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, 29th Sunday Psalm 38 or Psalm 55, 30th Sunday Psalm 33: (1-10) 13-22, 31st Sunday Psalm 31or Psalm 40, 32nd Sunday Psalm 71, 33rd Sunday Psalm 77, Christ the King Psalm 87 and Psalm 117, and All Saints Day Psalm 107.