Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!

May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!

May God send help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion!

Psalm 20 is categorized as a royal psalm, a liturgical blessing offered by the priests and the people for Israel’s king.

As much as this psalm sings of the monarch, however, it clearly places confidence in the LORD of Israel. In the psalmist’s theology, it is God who is ultimately responsible for the king’s successes.

May God grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.

May we sing for joy over your victory!

In the name of our God we will set up our banners.

Clinton McCann provides an interesting insight about this psalm:

On one level, it is possible to hear Psalm 20 as nothing more than a piece of ancient Judean political propaganda – that is, God is on our side and God will give us the victory.

It seems to be an ancient example of the kind of thinking that is so dangerous and frightening in our day; thinking that leads people to conclude that God sanctions whatever our nation does and to label our opponents as evil empires.

On the other hand, it is possible to hear Psalm 20 quite differently building upon the insights that the primary actor in the psalm is God, not the king or the people.

Keeping this in mind, we can hear in Psalm 20 the lesson that the people of any nation in some sense depend on their leaders, as well as the admonition that both the people and their leaders are to depend on God.

J. Clinton McCann Jr. “The Book of Psalms” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IV (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996) page 756.

McCann then quotes theologian James Mayes:

As Scripture, the psalm teaches the church to pray for those who hold the power of office, because they, like us, are dependent on the LORD.

It warns against ever letting our dependence on their service turn into the trust we owe to God alone. It warns against allowing their fascination with military strength to make us support policies based on trust in military might.

James L. Mayes, “Psalms” in Interpretation Commentaries (Louisville: John Knox, 1994, page 103.

This perspective brings to mind the important insight of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.

[The church] must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool…”

Every Sunday, during the Prayers of the People, Christians within the Anglican tradition pray for national leaders. In our community where I live and worship, we pray for:

Donald, our president and the congress and courts of these United States.

Greg, our governor and the legislature of this state ...

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace, that we may honor one another and serve the common good.

“Praying for” our leaders in no way suggests we support everything they do or say.

Rather, we are called to pray that our leaders will behave as God would desire: in the ways of justice and peace.

Since we cannot make any of our leaders behave in the ways of justice and peace, as people of faith, it is logical, appropriate and right for us to ask God’s intervention and guidance in the hearts and actions of leaders across the globe.

Some boast in chariots and some in horses

but we will boast in the name of the LORD our God.

The Name.

The Name of God represents the presence and power, the identity and character of God.

It is this Name that gives us confidence to follow our leaders when they demonstrate the divine character.

It is this Name that gives us the courage to resist them when they do not.

Pray for the king but trust in the Lord.

Prayers and liturgies from The Book of Common Prayer, online resource

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Author: Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and developed Living in The Story while doing doctoral work at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. Charlotte also blogs about intersections of faith, politics and culture at CharlotteVaughanCoyle.com.

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