Praise and Listening - Psalm 95
A Lent Reflection for Thursday, March 9th
By Rev. Dr. Cynthia P. Stewart
Lectionary reading: Psalm 95; Exodus 16:9-21; Ephesians 2:11-22
Selected passage: Psalm 95
Psalm 95 NIV
1 Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord,
Let’s shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let’s come before His presence with a song of thanksgiving,
Let’s shout joyfully to Him in songs with instruments.
3 For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are also His.
5 [a]The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let’s worship and bow down,
Let’s kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His [b]pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, [c]if you will hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as at [d]Meribah,
As on the day of [e]Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers put Me to the test,
They tested Me, though they had seen My work.
10 For forty years I was disgusted with that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 Therefore I swore in My anger,
They certainly shall not enter My rest.”
What is your morning routine? Is it getting kids ready and off to school? Is it checking your phone for emails or a glimpse at your calendar of meetings for the day? Is it rushing out of bed, getting dressed, and out the door, because you hit that snooze button too many times? What I like about Psalm 95 is that it gives us instructions for how we can start our day.
When I have taught classes on prayer, one thing I always tell students is before you put your feet to the floor, begin with a prayer to God, it can be as simple as “Good Morning, God, thank you for letting me see another day.”
The first seven verses of Psalm 95 are a call to worship, acknowledging who God is in your life (Great God, Rock of Salvation, Great King above all gods, maker of the sea, dry lands). When was the last time you sang a joyful noise to God? It can be in the shower, while you are getting dressed, cooking breakfast, driving in your car, walking the dog, exercising, while sitting at your desk at work or home or just sitting still. For me, because my commute is at least one hour and a few minutes here or there, that is my praise and worship time to God.
During this lenten season, it is a time to reflect and hear the voice of God. The second half of Psalm 95 is a call to obedience. After you have spent time giving praise and worship to God, then spend time listening to God’s voice. In Psalm 95 verse 7b, it states, “O, that “TODAY” you would hear his voice.” God speaks in many ways to each person individually and the more time you spend with him, you will know his voice. Interesting how the verse before this states, “we are the sheep of his hand” that means the sheep (us) follow the voice of their shepherd (God).
As we listen for the voice of God, remember to ask God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts (Psalm 139:23).” We ask this, because we do not want to have hardened hearts, but we want to remove anything that will cause us to be distant from God. God can remove hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:21), if we acknowledge any sins that easily beset us (Hebrew 12:1). This is what the latter half of Psalm 95 is providing for us as an example of those who chose to test God, let their hearts go astray, and did not regard God’s ways, while they were in the wilderness. Because they were disobedient, God did not allow them to enter his rest.
What is on your heart that during this lenten season you would like to give over to God? What steals your peace? What worries you when you can’t rest at night?
After reading the scripture passage, find some quiet time, with a journal, a candle, and meditation music of your choice. You will then conduct an Examen, which is a prayerful reflection of your day. The examen might take 10 to 15 minutes to complete
There are five steps to the Examen - the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola:
Give thanks - Spend a few moments in gratitude for the gifts and blessings of the day.
Ask for light - Ask God to enlighten you, showing where he has been at work and present in your day through events, people and places.
Examine the day - Review the moments of the day, noticing what has led to consolation and what has led to desolation and my reactions to these events, people and places (see below on consolation and desolation).
Seek forgiveness - Ask God's forgiveness for the times when you have acted, spoken or thought contrary to his grace and calling for you.
Resolve to change - Decide what in your behavior or attitude you will try to improve tomorrow.
God we come to you today with open hearts to give praise and honor to your holy name. May we feel your presence and be guided by your Holy Spirit. We thank you for this time of prayer. In Jesus Name, Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Cynthia P. Stewart works at Loyola University Chicago and is completing Spiritual Direction Internship. Wednesday at 5am, she leads a women only prayer call. She received her Master of Divinity and Master of Arts from North Park Evangelical Theological Seminary and Advanced Master of Theological Studies and PhD from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.