With boundless confidence, I abandon myself into your Heart; I give praise to your holy Name, O Beloved, with gratitude and joy. For You deliver me from my illusions, and, through Love, my heart opens to Wisdom. (Psalm 54 Nan C. Merrill)
Click on the link for the Psalm above for the text or listen to Psalm 54:
For the psalmist, saying God’s name, or rather, asking for God to save by the power of the name, is about being in God’s presence, and remembering who God is and what God has done, and hoping for what God will do for humanity. The psalmist is remembering (and reminding God about) the covenant relationship. “For the marginalized, the mutual obligations of covenant undergirding Psalm 54 can be empowering. Their praise matters to God. The hope is that it will matter as well to those who wield power.” W p. 96
Holy God, deliver us from the illusions that we are in control. Deliver us from the illusions that we are alone. All things are held in your hands and loved in your heart. We are surrounded by your love and the company of other believers. We are not alone. Open the hearts of the powerful to your wisdom that we may all experience your justice, mercy, and love.
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.
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.
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 wisdom and release my illusions.
Or you may want to use a short phrase: Deliver me from my illusions. Open my hear to wisdom.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
Sources and notes:
“Psalm 54 follows the structure of an individual prayer of lament: petition directed to God (vv. 1-2), complaint (v. 3), confession of trust (vv. 4-5), vow of praise and thanksgiving (vv. 6-7).” W p. 93
“The vow in Psalm 54:6 functions not only to motivate God to act favorably on the psalmist’s behalf but also consequently to enhance God’s reputation. Scoffers and enemies are watching to see if God saves (Pss 10:13; 79:9, 10), which suggests that the psalmist has “public relations value” because of the praise she offers. Through this concept may prove disturbing to some, it takes seriously the covenantal relationship established at Sinai; there is “a kind of parity assumed in the relationship” between God and the psalmist. The thanks the psalmist will give becomes public testimony to deliverance in a worship setting accompanied by a sacrificial offering. The ending of v. 7 “and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies” reads literally “and upon my enemies my eyes will look.” The words “in triumph” in the NRSV are not found in the MT and are not necessary, since the Hebrew suggests a looking down on someone inferior. Not only God’s reputation will be upheld, but the psalmist’s as well. For the marginalized, the mutual obligations of covenant undergirding Psalm 54 can be empowering. Their praise matters to God. The hope is that it will matter as well to those who wield power.” W p. 96
“I wonder sometimes if I am really talking to you or just to myself. …. Just let me be praying to someone. Let me not be offering all my best lines, confiding all my worst fears, only to myself. ” Layton E. Williams (Spong)
Psalm 54 is a typical example of an individual prayer for help. “It begins with a vocative and a tuition to be helped (v. 1) and heard (v. 2). A concise description of trouble (v. 3) supports the petition. Then a declaration of confidence in God (vv. 4-5a) is rounded off with a petition for God to act against the enemy (v. 5b). The prayer concludes with a vow of sacrifice and thanks that makes a transition into the vow of sacrifice and thanks that makes a transition into the praise that will accompany the sacrifice and expresses its meaning as thanksgiving (vv. 6-7).” Mays p. 206
“The petition asks that God save “by your name” and “by your might” (v. 1). The poetic synonymity between the name of God and the might of God shows that the name is understood as the power of the person of God.” Mays p. 206
“The Name carried something of the essential nature and power of God. To invoke his name was to invoke his presence. The Name theology is especially evident in the Deuteronomic wirtings. The Israelites were to worship at the place chosen by Yahweh where he would “put is name”. The use of the Name to protect both the transcendence and presence of Yahweh is especially present in the Solomonic dress to the people and prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kgs 8:1-66). Yahweh is repeatedly affirmed to be in heaven, but his powerful presence is invoked because his name is in the temple” WBC p. 47
“The major stress in the psalm is clearly on the powerful and effective Name of Yahweh. Yahweh may seem absent rom the world, but those who invoke his Name with faith and courage will discover the reality of his awesome presence. Those who forget his Name and seek to disregard his will may experience the terrible recoil of their own wickedness, a recoil which is sustained by divine power. The message of the psalm is clear enough: the Name of Yahweh will not fail the suppliant in a time of crisis. The enemies will not prevail. Yahweh will make a necessary connection between act and consequence, and the power of ruthless foes will be turned back against themselves.” WBC p. 49
“The perspective of the Lord’s prayer is eschatological, as is that of Psalm 54– that is, the psalmist prayed and Christians pray in the midst of opposition and suffering. Yet, to affirm that “God is my helper,” entrusting life and future to God, is already to be in touch with the source of enduring life and strength.” NIB p. 455
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.
Chittister Chittister, Joan. (2011). Songs of the heart: reflections on the psalms. John Garratt Publishing.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
DAFLER, J. (2021). PSOBRIETY: A journey of recovery through the psalms. Louisville, KY: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX.
W de Claisse-Walford, Nancy L. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 4-5. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 22. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2020.
W Hopkins, Denise Dombkowski. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 2-3. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2016.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2017). Reflections on the Psalms. Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
McCann McCann, J. C. (1993). A theological introduction to the book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Merrill, N. C. (2020). Psalms for praying an invitation to wholeness (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing.
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.
I began writing Psalm reflections during Lent of 2020 shortly after we decided to close the church building, work from home, and worship via zoom. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Starting in Advent 2019, Third Church decided to worship with the texts from Year D, which is still not circulated as are years 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. Reflections exploring the Psalms in year D. While we were using Year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. Now that we are rejoining those who use the lectionary, we are on Year B. This we hope will keep all of us planning and preparing worship on the same page.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections when I’m following the Revised Common Lectionary.
Other Year B Psalm blog posts:
Advent – Transfiguration: 1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 80, 2nd Sunday in Advent Psalm 85, 3rdSunday in Advent Psalm 126, 4th Sunday in Advent Psalm 89, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas, Psalm 148, New Year’s Day Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Christmas Psalm 147, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 139, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 62, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 111, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 147, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 50
Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 25, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 22, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 19, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 107, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 51 or Psalm 119:9-16, 6th Sunday in Lent (Palm or Passion Sunday) Psalm 118 or 31
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Maundy Thursday Psalm 116, Good Friday Psalm 22, Holy Saturday Psalm 31
Easter: Easter Psalm 118 or 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 133, 3rd Sunday of Easter Psalm 4, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 22, 6th Sunday of Easter Psalm 98, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 1, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104
Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 138 or Psalm 130, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 20 or Psalm 92, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 9 or Psalm 133 or Psalm 107, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 130 or Psalm 30, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 48 or Psalm 123, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 24 or Psalm 85, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 89 or Psalm 23, 9thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 145, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 51 or Psalm 78, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 130 or Psalm 34, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 111 or Psalm 34, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 84 or Psalm 34, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 45 or Psalm 15, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 125 or Psalm 146, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 19 or Psalm 116, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 1 or Psalm 54, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 124 or Psalm 19, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 26 or Psalm 8, 20thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 22 or Psalm 90, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 104 or Psalm 91, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 34 or Psalm 126, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 146 or 119, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 127 or Psalm 146, 25th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 16, 26th Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King) Psalm 132 or Psalm 93.