What Shall I Pray?

view from mountain hike

Psalm 19
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened, and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can detect one’s own offenses? Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

The poetry of the psalms continues to free my imagination—to dream, to have vision, to allow creativity to well up in me. At the same time, I am comforted knowing that there is language for my prayers when I feel speechless. When I get caught up in the spin and the news cycle, the psalms ground me in ancient words and perspective. At once they humble and empower me. Most importantly, they point me to the God who creates, guides, and redeems us.

The first part of Psalm 19 portrays the wonder of creation, the beauty of the natural world. It is a song to the creator God. I love that creation itself is, according to the psalmist, doing to the work of praising God and telling of God’s glory. I am again made mindful that I am small in contrast to the firmament, but I am also created by God. I too am embodied. I praise God for the wonders of creation, and I get to enjoy those wonders—the big sky of the Mountain West, the Aspen and Birch showing off their colors against the crisp blue, the laughter of friends, the Earl Gray tea helping me greet each new morning. Small and large wonders point me to God, creator of all.

But not everything goes in this big beautiful world. The same God who created has given the Law. If creation reveals God’s glory, perhaps the law helps me hear God’s voice, God’s desires, God’s relationality. We are not left to wander this world aimless. God gives ordinances, guidance, instruction, a vision for how we might live together. What’s more? These are compared to drippings of the honeycomb. In other words, it is pure gift to have guidance on how to be in relationship with God, other creatures, and even myself.

I will never be able to follow this guidance perfectly. Who could? We are works in progress. This is why I remember my baptism each morning. We have always been works of progress. I am not the first or last to pray the words of Psalm 19, to adopt this prayer as my own. I pray for God to guide us, knowing it is only through God’s pardon and love that I am well, whole, beloved, and able to extend that embodied care to my neighbors. It is God, the psalmist declares, who is my strength and redeemer.

Prayer...

Faithful God, you sent your incarnate Word as the sun of justice to shine upon all the world. Open our eyes to see your gracious hand in all your works, that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness, for the sake of him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen. (Psalm 19 Prayer from ELW)

Meggan Manlove

Meggan Manlove

ELCA Pastor, Trinity Lutheran, Nampa ID

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. lindaworden

    Thank you for this reflection on Psalm 19. I was feeling weighed down by the general situation (Covid-19 and everything else), and these thoughts on the psalm lifted me up.

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