Praying through Psalm 139

Father, thank you that Your hand is not too short to save.
You lay Your invisible hand upon me (v.6).
It is always upon me.
Thank you for being the omniscient LORD
who provides comfort, protection, and accountability (vv.1-6).

Wherever I am and wherever I go,
“even there Your hand shall lead me
and Your right hand shall hold me.”
Your hand leads me in Your paths
for You are the omnipresent LORD (vv.7-12).

Your hand creates and governs all things for Your glory.
Thank you that the skillful hand of a Sovereign Creator
fashioned me in my mother’s womb.
That hand ordained the days of my life
before one of them came to be (vv.13-18).

You are the potter. I am the clay.
Mold me and make me into the image of Your Son.
May I never resist the press of Your hands.
How assuring it is to know
that the days that were formed for me
where written in your book before there was one of them.

Thank You Lord for being a just Judge
who examines the hearts of all men.
Your hand is not partial and always judges justly.
Would You search my heart
and root out any grievous way
and lead me “in the way everlasting?” AMEN (vv.19-24).

The Indictment of Martin Luther – “A Wild Boar”

Martin Luther learned a powerful lesson that, when power-hungry, religious people are threatened, they will even use the Scriptures (in his case the Psalms) to assail and assault you.

This should not be a novel insight since the Devil misquoted Psalm 91 in tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5-6). It is interesting to note that a verse from the Psalms was used to excommunicate Luther from the Roman Catholic Church – Psalm 80:13. This Psalm refers to God’s people as a vineyard that He planted. It grew and became expansive in the earth. Then, people began to take advantage of and abuse His vineyard. The text says, “The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that moves in the field feed on it.”

Pope Leo X prayed “Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause….Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod….THE WILD BOAR from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.”

It is essential that we acknowledge that even those who care and cultivate the Lord’s vineyard are misunderstood and can be vilified. For those in leadership in Christ’s church, we must recognize that sometimes we may be maligned, slandered, and abused in our efforts to bring reformation and revival to Christ’s church. Luther’s life serves as a clear illustration of this reality. Yet for Luther, the Psalms served as a vital source for perseverance in fulfilling his calling and God-ordained mission in life.

Martin Luther & Singing the Psalms

Martin Luther encouraged praying the Psalms by providing the common people with singable versions of metrical psalms in their own language.

He acknowledged that,

the common and ancient custom of the Christian church [was] to sing Psalms. St. Paul himself instituted this in I Corinthians 14:15 and exhorted the Colossians [3:16] to sing spiritual songs and Psalms heartily unto the Lord so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.

(Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to the Scriptures, (Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1984), 48.)

As early as 1537 the Strasbourg Psalter included vernacular versions of all one hundred and fifty psalms.” Luther turned six Psalms into evangelical song (12, 14, 67, 124, 128, 130, and then later Psalm 46).

Hughes Oliphant Old claims that “Martin Luther did as much as anyone to revive and popularize psalm singing in the sixteenth century.”

A Scripture Reading for “A Mighty Fortress”

We live in a dangerous world full of adversaries.
Yet, our Old Testament Lesson teaches that
we have true and lasting security in the Lord our God.
Let us read responsively select verses from the Psalms and Proverbs:

Wondrously show your steadfast love,

O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield,
and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.

For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;

The righteous run to it and are safe.

Every word of God proves true;

He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

The Psalter Lesson for Reformation Sunday – A Responsive Reading

Our Psalter Lesson highlights God’s protection of us, God’s presence with us, and God’s power for us that instills the courage to face and conquer fear.
Let us read responsively Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Prayer of Confession by Martin Luther

Behold, Lord, I am an empty vessel
that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in faith; Strengthen me.
I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent
that my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith;
at times I doubt and am unable to trust You altogether.
O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in Thee.

In You I have sealed the treasures of all I have.
I am poor; You are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; You are upright.
With me there is an abundance of sin;
In You is the fullness of righteousness.
Help and forgive me, O Lord,
for my only hope is in You. Amen.

Prayer of Preparation for Reformation Sunday

Prayer to prepare your heart based on Psalm 46:

Lord God, our refuge and strength,
when the restless powers of this world
and the waters of hell rise up against your holy city,
watch over it and keep it safe.
By the river that flows from the throne of the Lamb,
purify us, your new Jerusalem,
as your chosen dwelling,
for You are with us, our stronghold now and forever. AMEN.