So often the daily office provides a salve for the soul when we need it the most. Tonight during evening prayer, one of our psalms is one of my favorites: Psalm 131. I often pray this psalm at night before I go to sleep. I find it especially comforting when I consider the psalm that precedes it, Psalm 130, which begins,
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice,
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication….
The word for “depths” is the one used to speak of ocean deeps, a place at the very center of our being, yet dark and remote. For the people who first prayed this psalm, especially, the sea was a place of mystery and danger. Thus, the psalmist, in trying to express the extent of his feeling of desolation and alienation, creates an image of waters rising over his head and pulling him under.
And haven’t we all felt that way, at one time or another? Yet hope still rings through Psalm 130, singing of waiting in patience and trust:
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
And then, when we arrive on the far shore of Psalm 130’s lament, we encounter Psalm 131’s appeal to simplicity and trust, with a beautiful image of a child soothed and comforted on her mother’s breast:
O Lord, I am not proud;
I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
Or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
Like a child upon its mother’s breast;
My soul is quieted within me.
O Israel wait upon the Lord,
From this time forth forevermore.
The gentleness and humility of one in awe and wonder before the immenseness of God’s love and care is invoked in Psalm 131, enticing us to be brave enough to cast away the brittle contempt and disregard that refuses to countenance the worth and value of the Other that seems to be the coin of the realm today. Yet, if we started from a position of gratitude for the gentleness of God’s care for us, how could we turn away from those who ask for our help?
Stilling the soul.
Remembering the promise of grace,
the abundant mercy of the One who seeks to open our hearts.
Trusting in the love that is our companion always.
In the peace and quiet of a soul at rest,
let me make my prayer to You,
O Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.
As I awaken
and open my eyes to receive morning’s light,
may I also awaken my spirit
and open my heart to receive your love, O God,
My Strength and My Shield.
Set my feet upon the path of justice, integrity, and peace,
O Radiant Spirit of Wisdom:
let me walk humbly and reverently
upon this good Earth you have hallowed, O Lord.
When I am troubled,
may I sigh and turn into your shoulder,
knowing I am your precious child, O Savior,
safe upon your breast,
soothed within your tender embrace,
enveloped within a mother’s protection and care.
guide and direct me by your abundant grace,
that I may serve the cause of love today
as a witness to the reconciling power of Christ.
Give respite and ease
to all who are troubled in body, mind, or spirit,
O Holy One,
and extend the shade of your blessing
over all who turn to You.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher, mom, and musician, and serves as priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO, in the Diocese of Missouri. She blogs at Abiding in Hope and at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.
The image is Mother and Child by Renoir