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Pastoral inspiration for our times from the Psalms

Updated: Oct 8



Our Anna Chaplaincy Lead for Wales, the Revd Sally Rees, has shared her Daily Thoughts on Psalm 139 which she supplies for use by her pastoral team.


You might find them useful as encouragement for people who are still spending protracted lengths of time at home alone and are feeling the pressures of this pandemic. They are based on readings from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV).


Sally has been sending them to her pastoral team over a three-week period as they support people over the phone whose health is vulnerable and are are shielding from the virus. Sally is based at St Catwgs, in the Crickhowell Ministry Area of Powys.

Psalm 139:1

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

Thought

God knows us entirely. There is nothing he doesn't know about us. So he knows more about us than we do e.g. He knows how many hairs are on each of our heads (Luke 12:7). As we explore this psalm, we are going to be blown away with not only how much God knows us, but also that we are completely secure in his love for us. Our greatest gift from God is that he allows us to get to know something of himself. This is going to be exciting!

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

As we start to explore this wonderful psalm

Help us to deepen our relationship with you

As we learn how much you care about us

And as we learn that you are completely trustworthy

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Tim Hughes)

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart

Bless you name, bless you name, Jesus

And the deeds of the day and the truth in my ways

Speak of you, speak of you Jesus

For this is what I'm glad to do

It's time to live a life that pleases you

And I will give my all to You

Surrender everything I have and follow You

I'll follow you


Psalm 139:2

You know when I sit and when I rise,

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

Thought

God is with us in every move we make. He is not watching to see if we will fall or make a mistake. He is watching as a Father would a child making his/her first steps – arms outstretched ready to protect us and hold us up.


The knowledge that God perceives my thoughts is amazing to me. I have a mind that jumps around all the time! I have tried to tame it but have come to the conclusion that I am made this way, So now I pray that God is in the 'jumping around' and flitting from one thought to another without warning... taking my thoughts to people and situations who I need to be reminded of, to support or pray for. God is not only interested in our bodies and movements but also our minds - mind blowing!

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

We lift all that we are to you - body mind and spirit

Thank you that you know us and care for us

Protect and guide us –

we ask you as your children

we ask you to bless our sitting, standing and our thinking today.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Daniel Shiells)

Father, I place into your hand

The things I cannot do

Father, I place into your hands

The things that I've been through

Father, I place into your hands

The way that I should go

For I know, I always can trust you.

Psalm 139:3

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Thought

Yesterday's theme continues with more information about how much God knows us.

As if to underline, 'my sitting and rising', the Psalmist reminds us that this applies to

wherever we are, when we go out. God still knows all our ways wherever we are today.

If you are somewhere you would rather not be, take heart, God is with us, and he is

familiar with all that is going on.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

Help us to trust you, that you are with us today

That you know all our circumstances, and remain familiar with all that is going on.

Help us to have the faith that the Psalmist had in your goodness and faithfulness

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Hymn (anonymous)

How strong and sweet my Father's care

That's round about me like the air,

Is with me always, everywhere

He cares for me!


Psalm 139:4

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely.

Thought

This verse follows on from God knowing our thoughts... but for some reason I find the idea of God knowing what I am going to say before I do a bit scary! How often do I say something I wish I hadn't?


What we need to keep hold of here is that the whole emphasis of this psalm is that God is

not looking out for our slips-ups, He is there to protect, guide, prompt and care for us.

So, I am going to ask God to be in the way my words form before I speak, just as I ask him to be in the thoughts that jump around in my head. I warned you that this is a mind-blowing psalm!

Prayer (by Sir Henry Walford Davies)

God be in my head

And in my understanding

God be in mine eyes

and in my looking

God be in my mouth

And in my speaking;

God be in my heart

And in my thinking

God be at mine end

And at my departing

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Tim Hughes)

May the words of my mouth

And the thoughts of my heart

Bless your name, bless your name, Jesus

And the deeds of the day and the truth of my ways

Speak of you, speak of you Jesus

Psalm 139:5–6

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me

too lofty for me to attain.

Thought

Verse 5 is my favourite verse of this Psalm... and a verse I quite often 'give' to those in need and /or suffering. It's the most comforting thing to know that God completely surrounds us and keeps his hand on us (perhaps as a mother might lay her hand on a baby – reassuringly) to keep up safe and knowing he is close by with his protective presence.

Prayer of St Patrick

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

Hymn (Keith Routledge)

Living under the shadow of His wing

we find security

Standing in his presence we will bring

our worship, worship, worship to the King

Psalm 139:7–8

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

If I make my bed in the depths of the sea, you are there

Thought

God's Spirit is with us everywhere. We might expect God and his Spirit to be in the heavens

but do we imagine that God and his Spirit is in the depths of the sea (or Sheol)? We only need to recall the story of Jonah to be reminded of this.


Wherever his Spirit is – there is our inescapable God, right there! We cannot run away or hide from Him. There is nowhere he cannot reach us.


When all is going well and we are happy, perhaps we are more able to be aware of his presence, but he is just as present when things are not turning out as we had hoped or expected – or upset, angry or sad. Let's hold on to that today.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

Help us to know your presence today regardless of how we feel, and what today will bring us

Happy or sad, at peace with the world or not

Let us reach out to you. our wonderful, inescapable God

Holy Spirit – we welcome you into our lives today

Show us your will for us now and always

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (traditional children’s song)

Jesus' love is very wonderful

Jesus' love is very wonderful

Jesus' love is very wonderful

O wonderful love

So high you can't get over it

So low you can't get under it

So wide you can't get around it

O wonderful love


Psalm 139:9–10

If I rise on the wings of the dawn

If I settle on the far side of the sea

Even there your hand will guide me

Your right hand will hold me fast

Thought

God has long arms! I am reminded of the phrase that Rowan Williams uses for God's love for us and our loved ones 'Gods long arm of grace'. I love the picture if holding on to God's right hand, so much like a father holding a child's hand and guiding them gently along the way. Let's walk with God today.

Prayer

Father

May we know your holding and guiding today

As we hold on to you, so hold on to us


Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Brian Doerksen)

Faithful one, so unchanging

Ageless one, You’re my rock of peace


Lord of all, I depend on you

I call out to you

Again and again

I call out to you

Again and again

Psalm 139:11–12

If I say 'surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me'

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you

Thought

In the past I have had a couple of bouts of deep depression,

and very very occasionally I still have a day when I don't really

want to go out or meet anyone. What I really want to do is to get

back into bed and pull the duvet over my head and hide - in the dark. I know it will pass.

However, even there - God will reach me.....and reassure and refresh me

Well - if ever you have a day like that (or even a few days) - take heart

no matter what 'your' darkness looks like. God is able to reach you there and spread

his light and love into that darkness. His light shines and warms us with hope and shows us the way back into a place where we feel and see in that light once more. It may take some time - but God is there with us in the dark and the light.

It makes no difference to God's unfailing love for us.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

Thank you that you never leave us and that there is no place

that you cannot find us, no matter how we feel and no matter

how we experience light or darkness around us.

Shine your light on us today,,,,may we feel the warmth of

your amazing love in our lives today

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Graham Kendrick)

Lord the Light of your love is shining

In the midst of the darkness shining

Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us

Set us free by the truth you now bring us

Shine on me, shine on me

Psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being,

you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Thought

We are all God's own creations. We may be able to understand much of our biological make-up, but we are so much more than matter. God is active in our creation making us each in His own image... and he does not make mistakes, we are made to show something of the glory of God. He knits our characteristics and our characters together to make you and me uniquely made in His image to do His will and.... he does this from the time we were in the womb - Before we were born, God was intimately involved crafting the person we are made to be for Him.

Prayer

Thank you, Father,

That you knit each one of us in your own image from before birth

Thank you that we are of immeasurable value to you as the person you have created

Thank you for our bodies, minds, spirit and soul.

Help us to use our whole being to bring you glory today

When we feel tempted to feel worthless. Help us to remember

That we are of infinite worth to you ...and that you love us so much

that you gave your only son to be our saviour, and help us to turn to Him.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Keri Jones and David Matthews)

When I feel the touch of your hand upon my life

It causes me to sing a song that I love you Lord

So from deep within my spirit singeth unto the thee

You are my King, you are my God

And I love you Lord.


Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,

your works are wonderful

I know that full well.

Thought

Having considered how much God knows us and protects and cares for us...the psalmist bursts into praise... in wonderment!!!! This week a couple in our congregation have received news of the birth of a new granddaughter... safely delivered, and wonder at her beauty. When we consider the miracle of birth - it is truly wonderful. I am not a biblical scholar but the word fearfully here does not fill me with fear. It reminds me of the mystery of God’s creation and His part in making us (as we thought about yesterday,)

What an awesome holy and amazing God we have... and we have the responsibility of carrying His image... and living to please Him with the rest of His creation.

'God saw all that he had made and it was very good' (Genesis 1v 31) God is good!

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father

Thank you for the mystery of creating us in your image.

Help us today to reflect something of you;

The wonder of your glory and the depth of your love and care for us

So that we may live in harmony with you,

Our neighbours and your creation.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Cecil Frances Alexander)

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.


Psalm 139:15–16

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of of them came to be

Thought

Wow - not only does God know and care for us wherever we are; standing lying down, when we go out and come in, in the heights and in the depths, in the light and in the dark, now we are told the amazing truth that God knew us before time began.

We were and are known IN ETERNITY. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end of all things. In Him - we live and move and have our 'being' (Acts 17 v28).

Prayer - the Collect for today

O God, the protector of all who trust in you

Without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy

increase and multiply upon us your mercy;

that with you as our ruler and guide

we may so pass through things temporal

that we lose not our hold on things eternal;

grant this, heavenly Father

for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake.

who is alive and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit

One God, now and for ever

Amen

Hymn (Walter Chalmers Smith edited by John Roberts)

Immortal invisible, God only wise

In light inaccessible hid from our eyes

Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of days

Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.



Psalm 139:17–18

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them

they would outnumber the grains of sand

When I am awake

I am still with you

Thought

God's thoughts and care for us is immeasurable - more than the grains of sand.

If we were to try to count them - I guess we would at some point fall asleep. Even asleep God is with us - and is still with us when we awake. So we can sleep securely knowing that God will be with us waking AND sleeping and then when we awake again

Prayer I often say last thing before bed (it’s my favourite from the Anglican Night Prayer service)

Visit this place, O Lord we pray

and drive far from it the snares of the enemy;

may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace

and may your blessing be always upon us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

Hymn (Michael Baughen)

New every morning its new

The love of God to me is wonderfully new

New every morning its new

The love of God to me is wonderfully new


Psalm 139:19–20

If only you would slay the wicked, O God!

Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

They speak of you with evil intent

your adversaries misuse you name.

Thought

Quite often when we read the Psalms together - the 'bad' bits are left out. But they are just as much part of the Psalm and there are lessons to learn from these parts, even though they may be words we would rather not hear. So... we are not going to miss them out from our little study of this Psalm.


The whole Psalm until now has been full of God's grace and compassion for HIs children

But now David's tone turns to the complete opposite as he remembers that there are some

people (equally God's children) who reject His love and care and do not want to respond to it with the kindness that God shows us. Instead - they speak of God and HIs name with evil intent... and David wishes (I guess metaphorically) that God would slay them. In any case David wants nothing to do with them.


How do we feel when we hear people's use of God's name, or Jesus' name taken in vain.....or even when they speak with evil in their hearts, as they consider God's love for them? It is OK for us to defend God and His nature. It is the same for sticking up for those who we love and who love us.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

Help us to respond to your love, shown to us today

And to feel the outrage that David felt when he heard others use your name with evil in their hearts

Help us to speak of the truth that you care for us - wherever we are, and that we cannot escape your love

so that others may respond to your love too

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (Thomas Chisholm and William M. Runyan)

Great is thy faithfulness, O God our Father

There is no shadow of turning with thee

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not

As thou hast been, thou for ever wilt be

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me


Psalm 139:21–22 Do not I hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies Thought

Again, two verses that might be missed out of our readings of this Psalm. But... David's hatred for his enemies came from his zeal for God and for His laws and rules. His hatred came from a desire for God's justice and righteousness rather than a desire for personal vengeance. Although we might find this language very harsh, and as Christians we are called to love our enemies, there is much that we can learn from David's zeal and love for God and for His ways - and his passion for these as the only way forward for people and for societies. Prayer Dear heavenly Father Help us to love you above all things Help us to be passionate for your name and for your righteousness and justice that covers all people and provides for all people Thank you for the kindness and care that has been shown to neighbours and to strangers in the shadow of the floods in Wales and the COVID crisis throughout our country Help us to care for one another in our community and world That your name and kingdom will be known by all


Hymn (William Rees) On the mount of crucifixion Fountains opened deep and wide Through the floodgates of God mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide Grace and love, like mighty rivers Poured incessant from above And heaven's peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.


Psalm 139:23–24

Search me, O God, and know my heart

test me and know my anxious thoughts

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting

Thought

These verses are quite well known and so may be familiar. At the end of the Psalm where

David has explored how great, how wide, how deep and how far reaching God's love and care for us is - he asks for God to show him how best to respond to this amazing gift. He does not want to be like those who he has been speaking about in the previous verses who do not love God, or his ways.

So, David asks for God to search his heart, knowing full well that God knows his heart (and ours) more than any other; And to clearly show him the way everlasting... God's enduring ways of love, justice and peace.

David wants to see himself as God sees him and to put things right. Let’s pray that we too, having pondered this amazing Psalm of God's greatness and mercy, may have the humility to ask God to show us if there are any offensive ways in our hearts, and to respond by asking God to show us His leading for our ways so that we can honour him.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father

Help us to come before you, in humility

Knowing that you know our hearts better than we know ourselves

Help us to be willing for you to search out our thoughts

and to be open to you leading

Knowing that, when we turn to you and come before you,

you are a God who loves us so much that you gave your only son to be our salvation

And that nothing can separate us from you and your love for us.

As we ask for your leading in our lives,

Help us to be aware of your prompting and help us to respond

Both in our words and in our actions.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Hymn (James Edmeston)

Lead us heavenly father lead us

through this world's tempestuous sea;

guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us

for your help is full and free

here possessing every blessing

if our God our Father be.

Today we have finished looking at Psalm 139 together. Your task over the weekend - should you choose to do so- is to read the whole of Psalm 139 once each, on Saturday and Sunday, and to ask God to speak to you through one (or more) of the verses or to show you one new thing from this Psalm.



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