Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Saturday, June 5, 2021 (Day 5)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 5 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Harken to my speech, O Lord,
Attend to my utterance
Listen well to my voice crying out, my king and my God,
For to you I pray.
Lord, in the morning, You hear my voice,
In the morning I lay it before You and wait…
Let all who shelter in You rejoice,
Let them sing gladly forever—protect them!

An Opening Word
Psalm 5 demands of God, “listen to me.” And the psalmist admits that yes, God is listening: “You hear my voice.” The psalm on the one hand, makes demands of God (attend to my utterance!), and on the other hand, calls out to all who seek God (rejoice! sing gladly! forever!). We see that language of “sheltering in God” come up again too.

The prayer below is also direct language to God: you have done this, God, you have done that. It is so basic and conversational, as if noticing all God has done. And in the case of what the author, Howard Thurman, is saying God has done, it seems tuned to unity: those I did not know are now friends, those who were far away are now like siblings.

There is so much resonance within Howard Thurman’s writing, I practically underlined every word of the first chapter of his book “Jesus and the Disinherited.” I even came across Thurman’s words, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty. We’re free at last,” which seemed hauntingly familiar. Can you think where you’ve heard them?

Thurman has been described as a mystic-activist and speaks at length about how we must be imbued with our own sense of God’s love (that God treasures us and loves us deeply for exactly who we are) in order to fully come alive in this life. He says, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive…” And then, in our coming alive, we can recognize brotherhood in every stranger on our path, and sisterhood with those whose lives are very different from our own.

His famous mystic-moment happened on the Khyber Pass in 1936 when he was visiting Afghanistan and India. He felt a vivid connection to all people, “seekers of all colors and creeds,” and felt convinced from then on that “experiences of spiritual unity among peoples could be more compelling than the experiences which divide them.” In a broken world that continues to highlight and fuss over (and violently act upon) our many divisions instead of unity, Howard Thurman’s voice helps us look differently at the task of being human, the work of being Christian, and the journey of seeking God.

Prayer from the Mystics: Howard Thurman (1899–1981)
Thou hast made known to me
friends whom I knew not.
Though has brought the distant near
and made a brother of the stranger.

May this be true for us all.

June 5, 2021

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