Psalm 91 (C)

Those who dwell in the shelter of 
Infinite Light,
who abide in the wings of
Infinite Love,
Will raise their voices in praise: 
"My refuge and my strength;
in You alone will I trust."
Nan C. Merrill Psalm 91

Psalm 91:


I will shelter in your Holy Mountains and snuggle close to your breast for you, O Beloved, are my shelter, my strength, and my sustainer, in whom I trust.

If it is your will, or your angels’ protection, or sheer dumb luck, I am safe today. I trust you when I am safe and know that you will sustain me even if I find myself in danger. You call me beloved. Nothing can separate me from your love. Not the terror of war, not pestilence nor destruction, not those who seek my harm, not injury, not wild beasts full of teeth and venom, not my own comfort nor the delusion that I control my world, not my arrogance or privilege, not my desire to see those I deem as evildoers punished, not the vain thought that I am your favorite and will not experience hardship. I do not need to test your love for you are steadfast, and yet, I pray that you make me ever aware of your presence.

Beloved, hold me in your lap, brush my hair, and sooth my anxious soul. You are my refuge and strength, my God, in whom I trust.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Breath Prayer:  

If you are new to breath prayer, I’ve recorded some examples:

Here are some simple breath prayers to accompany this psalm:

Meditate on trust

A simple prayer with one word on exhalation and one on inhalation: God fill me with your Holy Spirit. I receive your love and release my anxiousness. 

Or you can split a longer phrase between inhalation and exhalation or put a phrase on both.  Here is an example: I surrender myself to you, my God, in whom I trust.

Do what is most comfortable to you.  Breath prayer is a practice not something we do perfectly.  Some days will be easier than others.

Ok, everyone, take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed. I love the image of being held by love.

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.  It is a practice I have continued since.  Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) 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.  While we were using Psalms in year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A.  In Advent of 2020 we rejoined those who use the lectionary in year B.  Advent of 2021 follows year C of lectionary pattern with Psalms in year C.    

I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.

Other Year C Psalm blog posts:

Psalm the lectionary gives Luke 1:68-79, 3rd Sunday in Advent instead of a Psalm the lectionary gives Isaiah 12:2-6, 4th Sunday in Advent Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Psalm 96Psalm 97Psalm 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 35, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 19, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 71, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 138, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 1, 7th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 37, Transfiguration Sunday (Sunday before Lent) Psalm 99

Lent: Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 91, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 27, 3rd Sunday in Lent Psalm 63, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 126, 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 Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 150, 3rdSunday of Easter Psalm 30, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 148, 6thSunday of Easter Psalm 67, Ascension Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 97, Day of Pentecost Psalm 104

Season After Pentecost (Ordinary Time): 1st Sunday after Pentecost (Trinity Sunday) Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 or Psalm 22, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 77 or Psalm 16, 4th Sunday after Pentecost  Psalm 30 or Psalm 66, 5th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 82 or Psalm 25, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 52 or Psalm 15, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 85 or Psalm 138, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 49, 9thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 50 or Psalm 33, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 80 or Psalm 82, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 71 or Psalm 103, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 81 or Psalm 112, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 1, 14th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 14 or Psalm 51, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 113, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 91 or Psalm 146, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 66 or Psalm 111, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 121, 20thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 65 or Psalm 84, 21st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 32, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 145 or Psalm 98 or Psalm 17, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 98, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 46.

Sources and notes:

“Psalms 90-92 open book 4 of the Psalter: Scholars have long recognized a connectedness among the three psalms, on that includes wisdom motifs, concern with the human condition, and finding security in YHWH. With Erich Zenger, i consider Psalms 90-92 to be “eine komposition” (a single composition) that is linked by keyword motifs, by questions in one psalm that are answered in a following psalm, and with a Mosaic inclusio. We can see movement in the three psalms from lament in Psalm 90 to promise in Psalm 91 to thanksgiving in Psalm 92.” W p. 3

“Psalm 91 seems to offer and answer to the people’s pleas to God in Psalm 90:13 and 14… ” W p. 10

“In words of confident praise the singer of the psalm celebrates the many ways that God cares for and ultimately “satisfies” (v.16) those who trust.” W p. 10

“Some suggest that the basic meaning of the word “Almighty–Shaddai” is “breast”, while others maintain that “mountain” is the referent and thus unseated “Shaddai” as “God of the Mountains”. But let us move backward to Psalm 90:2 and then forward to Psalm 91:4 as we attempt to find a meaning for verse 1’s use of “Shaddai” Psalm 90:2 depicts God birthing the earth and the inhabitable world, and in verses 3, 12, and 14 the psalmists request that God give “humankind” and “mortals” a “heart of wisdom” and that God “satisfy humanity.” W p. 12

“The epithet “Shaddai” in Psalm 91:1 may be understood as reference to the nurturing, nourishing God who gave birth to the earth (Ps 90:2) and now suckles it–satisfies it–as it learns to have a “heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). References that tie nurturing breasts to God and God’s goodness are numerous in the Hebrew Bible.” W p. 12 Genesis 49:25; Isaiah 66:11; Ruth 1:20-21; Psalm 22:9-10; and Job 20:21 W p. 12

… in the context of Psalms 90 and 91 YHWH’s winged protection in 91:4 is best understood as the protection a mother gives to the child she has born, suckled, and taught to live with wisdom in a world where adversity presents itself on every side.” W p. 13

“God’s repeated promise to care for and protect the psalm singers leads to the declaration in verse 16 that God will finally “satisfy”–they very request made by Psalm 90:14. These words of promise, of course, are heard in dissonance by those whom God has not satisfied in the midst of so many trials and setbacks in life. But they perhaps offer a hope of the eventuality of satisfaction to those who seek to live the a “heart of wisdom.” W p. 13

“The psalm seems to be the work of a teacher who seeks to nurture the trust of the faithful by encouraging each of them to take the LORD as their refuge from all the troubles of life.” Mays p. 296

Psalm 91 (and others) convey “the important role of trust in coping with the anxieties that beset their life.” Mays p. 297

“The psalm itself poses a danger. Because its assurance of security is so comprehensive and confident, it is especially subject to the misuse that is a possibility for all religious claims, that of turning faith into superstition. In Judaism and Christianity, bits of the text have been worn in amulets that were believed to be a kind of magical protection for those who wore them. The promise that the ministering angels would guard the way of the pious (v. 11) was one of the bases of a belief that God assigns individual believers a personal angel to watch over them, and the angel easily became the focus of concern and piety. In an infamous use of Scripture, Satan employed verses 11 – 12 in his attempt to corrupt Jesus (Matt. 4:5-7; Luke 4:10-11). The psalm must always be read and understood in the light of that encounter. Satan placed Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple and challenged him to jump off to test God’s promise that the angels would bear him up. The temptation was to take the promised protection of God into the control of his own will and act. That would have shifted the power of the promise from the free sovereignty of God to individual willfulness. Real trust does not seek to test God or to prove his faithfulness. These matters have been the subject of constant discussion in the interpretation of Psalm 91 (e.g., Luther, 11:210-211; Calvin, 3:486; and Barth, III/3, pp. 517-518).” Mays pp. 297-298

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.

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