Psalm 143:1 – Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness.
A LEVEL PATH
As I read the scriptures for today, I remembered when these texts last appeared in the lectionary. April 1, 2020 – we were three weeks into a phenomenon that would change our way of living perhaps forever.
My imagination can be vivid at times, but never had it entered into my thinking that I’d live through a global pandemic of this magnitude. Never did I envision being away from family and friends while being restricted at home. Never did I foresee that every single pollen-driven sneeze would have me reaching for a thermometer. During the 1980’s, I was working in the infectious disease department of a city hospital but was never afraid for my friends who were on the front lines of patient contact. Everyone was able to use appropriate precautions, make smart decisions, and be at minimal risk.
COVID-19 was different. I was older than I’d like to be and had lousy lungs even on a good day. The virus made me feel like I was on the rabbit end of a hawk hunt. The tension was palpable; the predator was airborne. I was vulnerable to the enemy, and there was no way to know if I would be the target of the day.
How appropriate that the lectionary scripture for that day and today is Psalm 143! This prayer is a cry for deliverance from the enemy. “Save me, O LORD, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life. In your righteousness bring me out of trouble. In your steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am your servant.” (Psalm 143:9-12, NRSV)
As I read the psalm, my eyes particularly landed on “teach me to do your will.” I was immediately reminded of Jesus’ teaching on how to pray. Many of us were taught The Lord’s Prayer as children and are able to say it by heart today, but I think if Jesus had been a Southern American, we may have heard his prayer more like: Heavenly Father, your name is holy. May your kingdom come, and may we always work to do your will here on earth just as it is in heaven. Bless us with food on our table today, and remind us to forgive each other just like you forgive us. Help us to avoid urgings, and keep us out of trouble. All this we pray because the kingdom, the power and the glory are always yours. Amen.
However we say it, all the pieces are there to alleviate some stress and feelings of helplessness. Jesus has given us the words, the thoughts, the teachings, the tools, and the very prayer we need to keep us grounded and reminded that God has power over all things on earth. When I pray, I feel a little less like the rabbit – timid and skittish – and a little more like the hawk – strong and soaring.
As we continue to face diseases and health concerns around us, many parents teach their children to sing the “Happy Birthday” song as they wash their hands. The goal is to ensure those little fingers are being washed for a length of time that is appropriate for killing the most germs. Recently, I’m hearing of a new and wonderful trend: pray The Lord’s Prayer each time we wash our hands. The length is great for effective germ killing. The words are a familiar comfort, and we spend some intentional time with God. I think of prayer as an appropriate precaution, helping me to make smart decisions and be at minimal risk from worldly influences. Merging prayer time with health efforts sounds like “a level path” for God’s servants. That’s a worthy goal for me this Lent.
Soaring in health,
PRAYER FROM PSALM 143
O Lord, thank you for always hearing my prayer. In a world as inundated with brokenness as ours, I remember your promises and your hope. Help me to focus on your faithfulness and use that strength as I walk the level path of sharing your love with others. Amen.