Praying the Psalms: My Soul Thirsts for You
My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you
Praying the Psalms, 4
23-24 Mar 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Responsive reading, Isaiah 55
Children, Luke 13.1-9
Message, Psalm 63
Mission Moment, UMCOR Sunday video 3
Thirst, then hunger
Desert, then sanctuary, then bedroom
An all-nighter with God, waiting for answered prayer at sunrise
Prayed in the morning, prayed at night
Lament over personal troubles and God’s absence?
Thanksgiving for sacrifice/meal?
Unexpected conclusion – “those who seek to destroy my life” (v9)
· Paired with title line, “Of David. When he was in the Wilderness of Judah.”
· That does not mean that it was in fact written by David. It could refer to a David tradition psalm, or a psalm written to fit within David’s legendary story. We don’t know, and the title line does not require any particular conclusion.
· David fleeing from Saul? From Absalom? Yet did not desire that either die.
· However we understand the title section, it is clear by the conclusion that this psalm is a prayer offered when our very life may be threatened.
It is that very threat that makes the praise of this psalm so audacious. It is not that everything is going great. Even though things are bad, even though folks are out to kill me, I have not forgotten the reality, the foundation, that I celebrate and experience in worship with the people of God in the sanctuary. My soul is satisfied. And, “your steadfast love is better than life” (v3).
The psalm expresses a deep desire for God, a longing for intimacy that sustains through the most difficult trial, affection for one’s lover no matter the circumstances that surround you. Metaphors of desire and delight permeate the text, from the intimacies of the table (food and drink), to the privacy of the bedroom.
Psalm 63:1 my flesh faints for you
Psalm 63:3 your steadfast love is better than life
Psalm 63:6 I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night
No, it is not as straightforward as the metaphors in Jewel’s song “Jupiter”:
I could spend my life
Wandering the length of your body
Whether we take these metaphors of desire and delight an erotic direction, this psalm is clearly one of intimacy with God.
Almost every night, when my head hits the pillow, my final prayer is “thank you.” Not that the day was a great one. I’m tired and I need sleep. I’m overwhelmed and I’m grateful that I can stop working and trust God to hold me. I am anxious and life is uncertain; I’m laying my burdens down. “Thank you.”
And when I wake in the middle of the night – Jesse calls, or one of a hundred personal or pastoral burdens calls me – I pray.
I’ve never pulled an all-nighter (in school or in prayer), but “I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.”
Philoxenus of Mabbug (ACCS, OT VIII, Psalms 51-150, Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, ed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP 2007, p 55):
One should be secretly swallowed up in the spirit of God, and one should clothe oneself in God at the time of prayer both outwardly and inwardly, set on fire with ardent love for him and entirely engulfed in his thoughts of God, entirely commingled in all of him, with the movements of one’s thoughts suffused with wondrous recollection of God, while the soul has gone out in love to seek him whom it loves, just as David said.
A different intimacy story: Marcy’s friend’s adoption
Foster at 6 months
Bio mom at 1 year
Back and forth until 3.5 years old
Like the prayer of David we have before us today, their intimacy with their child grew, despite the extreme trials of the process. Many folks would have given up hope, but they persevered. “My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you.” They pursued their desire until they were satisfied. “I think of you on my bed” over many anxious and sleepless nights. No matter the developmental delays, no matter the harm to this little girl’s mental health, “your steadfast love is better than life.”
From Luke 13: The difference between stepping in poop and working with manure … what matters is the fruit. Not to reframe all the bad things that happen as fertilizer, but to remember that fruit is what does matter.
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, OT VIII, Psalms 51-150, Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, ed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007.
The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol VI, Psalms, J. Clinton McCann, Jr. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.