The Old Testament Psalms are constant reminders of how easily humans forget divine blessings and have to be reminded by daily prayer.
The Psalms have been human prayer companions for centuries. The Psalms are some of the greatest literature ever written. Their depth in terms of spirituality and human reflection have few counterparts. Take Psalm 23, for example.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . .
The Psalmist reassures us that nature is at peace with us, that we must embrace its peace to feel peace. God’s creation is not in opposition to us, rather complementary to us. We restore our souls, we find peace of mind, next to the cool clear waters and verdure of the natural environment. Psalms use the imagery of a pastoral people. God the Creator of nature is pictured as a shepherd to his sheep, the humans. Sheep are peaceful ruminants who seek to live contented in nature’s grasp. There is only one shepherd. When each human decides he/she is a shepherd, then conflict results.
He leads me in paths of righteousness . . .
The path is overwhelmingly clear, even if one loses the way. The path is before, in the heart, the soul, the brain; bodily passions often lead the other way, stray from the path, or blind one to the guide. Open the eyes, see the path, see the guide.
In the midst of death’s shadow . . .
The path often seems to lead this way, toward death and destruction, annihilation, nonexistence. The darkness can be overwhelming. The light snuffed by death’s shadow allows all of the nascent fears of being to come rushing in, and one feels alone, scared, abandoned, and thrust into a deep dark pit of no return.
I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . .
God can vanquish the fear, but only if allowed. How can evil be nearby if God is present? How can one be on a path of death and destruction when God is before, leading the way?
You prepare a table for me in the midst of my enemies . . .
Surrounded by the enemies of my mind and body—fear, anxiety, pain, sickness, death—You bid me to share a meal with You, to find comfort in the everyday, in the regular habits and tasks of existence.
Your mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life . . .
Mercy is in pursuit, trying to catch up to a human’s wandering ways while humans search for light in the twisted path of darkness. Allow mercy to make up the distance, to come alongside, to be the partner in the race to the end.