‘Almighty God, our eternal refuge, teach us to live with the knowledge of our death and to rejoice in the promise of your glory, revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.’
This is the responsive prayer to Psalm 91 in Common Worship which was in the lectionary readings this morning. I was struck by the phrase ‘teach us to live with the knowledge of our death’. Not at first sight the most cheery advice but, on reflection, in the light of eternity and our evident fragility, can we not see this as wise counsel? In life we have to negotiate, and somehow hold together, the reality of pain and suffering and, at the same time, the hope of glory and the love of God. The psalm reflects on the brevity and the sorrows of life – that the days of our life are ‘but labour and sorrow’ and that our life will ‘soon pass away’ and that it needs to be lived with intentional care – ‘teach us to number our days’. The psalmist’s seemingly only sure guarantee of joy and gladness in this life is to know experientially the ‘loving-kindness’ of God – the certainty of which is implied in the acknowledgement of the above prayer that God is ‘our eternal refuge’.
Worship is a struggle when life is hard and difficult because we can be less aware of God’s love. If we do not feel loved or cannot see evidence of that love life becomes even more of an ‘up-hill struggle’. What should we do in those times? The psalmist seems to see the seeking of a satisfying experience of God’s loving-kindness to be the key to being able to ‘rejoice and be glad’ whatever he may be facing in life.
Similarly, the apostle Paul talks of a hope in difficult times that will not disappoint because ‘we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love’*.
Fill us anew we pray.
*(Romans 5 v5)