A Psalm a Day: Psalm 61

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 61

On the 19th of October 2023, here’s Psalm 61:

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
    his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
    appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
    and fulfill my vows day after day.

What is this Psalm about?

Psalm 61 is described by some as a ‘royal lament’ – and interestingly, there is no consensus as to what it is that the Psalmist is here lamenting, or fleeing from. Psalm 61 is a cry to God, from the heart of one of his people, and with a reminder of various Psalmic themes. It is a prayer that offers a model for real prayer by real people in the real world.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

In stark contrast to Psalm 60, where God speaks, this seems to be a Psalm about speaking to God. From verse 1 and throughout the Psalm there is the hope and the truth that God will hear. Verse 3 picks up the truth of God as refuge – a common theme in the Psalter. Verse 5 confirms that God hears – and as a result of hearing, things happen. Verse 7 talks about God’s presence – something that his people will enjoy forever, and can be requested for. Verse 8 adds an interesting angle on ‘praising’ God’s name.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Psalm 61 invites God’s people – now, and then – to cry out to him. God invites prayers from wherever and whoever – and this is rooted in his presence, his throne, and his glory. Verse 4 gives a profound hope for those who have no home – we can dwell in God’s tent forever – and also those who seek refuge – we can find it in the shadow of God’s wings. Psalm 61 is simultaneously deeply personal and intimate, and universal and majestic. Psalm 61 is a model prayer – and at the same time an inspiration for prayer, praise and pursuing God’s presence.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 

Lord, hear my cry. My prayer, however I am and from wherever and what state I pray, is to you and for your glory. Come, Lord, make yourself know to those around me. I look forward with hope, and pray for your will to be done amongst my leaders and kings. Amen.

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