This morning I want to reflect on how today’s Gradual Psalm relates to the Gospel, and what it can mean to us. Psalm 138 does not really fit the usual theme of Lent. It is a Psalm of thanksgiving and of Praise. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord…I will sing your praise.” (v. 1) As with other Psalms it can be understood on more than one level.
The first is the purpose for which it was written, possibly thanksgiving for a victory.
The second level is how it was understood when it was adopted for use in worship. Finally there is the level on which we accept and use it in our own personal devotion. Early in the Psalm it says “I will bow down toward your holy temple”. (v.2) This refers to an ancient custom of going to the Temple in Jerusalem to Pray, or facing in the direction of the Temple for prayer. In a similar way some of us SSJE monks might go to the chapel after a long absence from the monastery to offer a prayer of thanks on our return for God’s protection and for our good experiences.
One verse in our Gradual Psalm reads, “When I called, you answered me; you increased my strength within me.” (v.4) This says to me that when we realize God has answered our prayers our inner strength increases. Inner strength and faithfulness in prayer do belong to the Lenten theme. In today’s Gospel Jesus in his teaching on prayer says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Mt. 7:7) Perhaps you can see the connection here between the gradual Psalm and the Gospel.
The last few verses of our Psalm can give us words to use in our prayers of thanks and praise. E.g. “though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; You stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me.” (v. 8) Those words should give you inner strength and confidence. As we offer thanks and praise to God our inner strength and faithfulness should increase in proportion to our love of God.
Do these verses, and others like them, help you to feel closer to God when you pray? Meditate on them and embrace them!
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