March 13: Psalm 70


March 13: Psalm 70

Prayer for help and deliverance

Short meter 66.86                    Terra Beata (This is My Father’s World), p. 10
Southwell, p. 50

O God, deliver me. Lord, speed Your help to me;

And let all those who seek my life ashamed and humbled be.

Turned back be they, disgraced, who in my hurt delight;

Appalled by their own shame be they who say, “Aha,” in spite.

Let all who seek be glad; with joy in Thee abide;

Let those who Thy salvation love say, “God be magnified.”

In need am I and poor; O God, make haste I pray;

My help and my Deliverer, O Lord, do not delay.

Except for a few very minor variations, Psalm 70 is nearly identical to the final verses of Psalm 40 (verses 13-17). A plea for help in distress, it is a prayer appropriate to a great many circumstances in life. In fact, it is safe to say that the psalm’s opening line—“O God, deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me”—has been prayed, over the centuries, more than any other line of the Psalter. In the sixth century, the great monastic code of the West, the Rule of St. Benedict, prescribed that each of the seven “day hours” should begin with this verse, thus guaranteeing that it would be prayed at least seven times each day. As a simple doubling and slight expansion of the “Lord, have mercy” prayer, this opening line of Psalm 70 became, then, one of the most important early formulas in the quest for constant prayer. It served as a kind of historical forerunner to the “Jesus Prayer” (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner”). Prayed from the heart, it places the mind constantly in communion with God. It is a prayer that should never be absent from our lips. (Reardon, p.137-138)