Friday Reflection – On a Hymn and a Prayer

Dear friends,

Wow! It’s been awhile! While my life is still super-ultra-mega busy, I’ve been busy working on my “word” for this year, which is discipline. One of the disciplines in which I had hoped to grow in 2019 was setting aside time to write, even if it was only a few moments, one day each week.

Well, since this is my first post on the good old “Shimmersome” blog in 2019, you can imagine how that’s gone. You know what, though? Writing, for me, is actually a spiritual discipline, and like every other spiritual discipline, the hardest part is setting aside the perceived needs of the moment and getting started. When I sit down to write, my heart is full, my mind is engaged, and I feel more like the person God created me to be than just about any other time. So, back to it! (If you want to read my other published work so far in 2019, you can check me out on the Revive Our Hearts “Authors” page here.)

As many of you know, one of my (many) passions is music, and one of the particularly nerdy ways that plays out in my life is in reflecting on the lyrics of the songs that pop into my head throughout the course of the day, particularly if they’re hymns or songs of worship. (I mean, if you want me to write a reflection on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, I suppose I could do that, but somehow I don’t think there’s much of a thirst for that among the minuscule masses of my readership.)

This week, while writing a post on my journey through depression and anxiety for ROH, the hymn that’s been on repeat in my mind is one that is based on Psalm 51, which is David’s song of repentance after the mess with Bathsheba. I don’t know that it had any direct connection with what I’d been writing about, except that it, like Psalm 51, majors on the theme of God’s great mercy for His people and it gives us an example of how a truly repentant heart might approach a supremely holy God and come away cleansed, forgiven, and comforted.

At the risk of losing my Baptist credentials, I have to say that our liturgically-minded brothers and sisters in the faith really have something when it comes corporate confession. I’m convinced that seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness together is a practice that would be a gift to every healthy church, and one that could be a first step toward health for a body that is ailing.

Alas, since many churches don’t have a format for practicing corporate confession, what better way to begin than in song? The words to “God be Merciful to Me”, originally from a Scottish Psalter, are poetic, poignant, and purposeful, and I’ve copied them below. For those who are familiar, perhaps there are a few additional verses you haven’t heard. As you read them, may they be the prayer of your heart, and lead you on the path of repentance, worship, and peace.

1 God, be merciful to me,
on thy grace I rest my plea;
plenteous in compassion thou,
blot out my transgressions now;
wash me, make me pure within,
cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

2 My transgressions I confess,
grief and guilt my soul oppress;
I have sinned against thy grace
and provoked thee to thy face;
I confess thy judgment just,
speechless, I thy mercy trust.

3 I am evil, born in sin;
thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
teach thy wisdom to my heart;
make me pure, thy grace bestow,
wash me whiter than the snow.

4 Broken, humbled to the dust
by thy wrath and judgment just,
let my contrite heart rejoice
and in gladness hear thy voice;
from my sins O hide thy face,
blot them out in boundless grace.

5 Gracious God, my heart renew,
make my spirit right and true;
cast me not away from thee,
let thy Spirit dwell in me;
thy salvation’s joy impart,
steadfast make my willing heart.

6 Sinners then shall learn from me
and return, O God, to thee;
Savior, all my guilt remove,
and my tongue shall sing thy love;
touch my silent lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall praise accord.

7 Not the formal sacrifice
hath acceptance in thine eyes;
broken hearts are in thy sight
more than sacrificial rite;
contrite spirit, pleading cries,
thou, O God, wilt not despise.

8 Prosper Zion in thy grace
and her broken walls replace;
then our righteous sacrifice
shall delight thy holy eyes;
free-will off’rings, gladly made,
on thine altar shall be laid.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #51C

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Hey, you made it this far! I can’t believe someone’s still reading. Ha! Well, what did you think? Those are fabulous lyrics, are they not? If you’d like to explore further resources for this hymn, you can check out free sheet music for the traditional setting of the hymn, and then a couple of videos so you can hear both the old and a newer setting. Enjoy! Leave me some feedback on whether you’d like to see more hymn reflection posts in the future or any other feedback for the newly regenerated blog.

Grace and peace,