By Sherry Black

A Reading from Psalms 120, 121, 122, 123

Psalm 120

1 When I was in trouble, I called to the LORD;
I called to the LORD, and he answered me.

2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips
and from the deceitful tongue.

3 What shall be done to you, and what more besides,
O you deceitful tongue?

4 The sharpened arrows of a warrior,
along with hot glowing coals.

5 How hateful it is that I must lodge in Meshech
and dwell among the tents of Kedar!

6 Too long have I had to live
among the enemies of peace.

7 I am on the side of peace,
but when I speak of it, they are for war.

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4 Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5 The LORD himself watches over you;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6 So that the sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
it is he who shall keep you safe.

8 The LORD shall watch over your going out and
your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

2 Now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built as a city
that is at unity with itself;

4 To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
the assembly of Israel,
to praise the Name of the LORD.

5 For there are the thrones of judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.

7 Peace be within your walls
and quietness within your towers.

8 For my brethren and companions’ sake,
I pray for your prosperity.

9    Because of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek to do you good.”

Psalm 123

1 To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.

2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
until he show us his mercy.

4 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
and of the derision of the proud.

Meditation

I get particularly excited about the Daily Office on days like today. In my mind I think, “Oh goody, four psalms!” Or even better, eight psalms today including evening prayer! I have always loved the Psalms!

Many years ago, when I had just returned to the Episcopal Church, I had a conversation with my priest about this. His reaction was more of a sarcastic eyeroll: “Oh goody, four psalms.” I even heard of someone who blurted out, “I hate psalms!”

It’s rare, but there are people who don’t like the Psalms all that much. Some, I suppose, just aren’t “poetry people.” Some don’t understand their context. They love the stories in the Bible, the action, but all this emotive language is just a bit too much. Some don’t like the Psalms because they don’t like the “negative” language in the imprecatory psalms. Some have learned to love the Psalms after learning more about their role in the Hebrew scriptures.

Many love them because they express such a wide range of human emotions, and we can read and pray through even our dark times using the words of the Psalms. Others love the visuals: “I lift my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?” As a former Colorado girl, that’s one of my favorites. Or, “As a doe longs for running streams, so longs my soul, for you, my God.” I’ve known that thirst for God; I hope I never lose it. Reading the Psalms through the cycles of Morning and Evening Prayer, on an eight-week repeat, allows us to revisit not only our favorites, but the entire Psalter.

How do you feel about the Psalms? No matter how you feel, can you trust that they’re part of God’s gift of prayer to you?

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, McKinney, Texas
The Diocese of Eau Claire