St Michael’s Vicarage
Dear People of Alnwick,
One of the obligations of ordination is the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer but, for me, it is not only a duty but a joy. As the months and years roll on, the psalms, which are an integral part of the daily offices, speak to me more and more.
In one sense, as the psalms are recited over and over again, they become like familiar friends but, on the other hand, they continue to speak afresh each time they are read. Psalm 113, verse 3┬á“From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of the Lord” always fills me with a wonderful sense of being caught up in the constant round of worship directed to God in a never-ending hymn of praise.
The famous 17th century “Westminster Confession” stated that the chief end of man is “…to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever” – and this is the implication from this verse of Psalm 113.
Let me share two thoughts with you:
Firstly, something about the unbroken round of praise that is directed to God. The praises of God come not only from the earth but also from within heaven itself and so we can be certain that we are caught up in a ceaseless action that had no beginning and will have no end.
Although the psalm talks of the praise of God “from the rising of the sun to its setting”, this is not a reference to daylight hours only! As we know, the daylight is always present in some part of the world and so the work of prayer and praise continues even when we are safely tucked up in our beds. As John Ellerton’s well-loved evening hymn would have it:
“The sun that bids us rest is waking
our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
thy wondrous doings heard on high.”
And so, having made our contribution to the praise of God, we can be reassured that we are also carried along by those who are praying when we are not. And it is worthwhile being completely honest here: there are times when we all find prayer difficult – and both frequency and quality can suffer. The secret is to persevere; knowing that we continue our voices not only with our fellow-believers but also “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven”.
Secondly, praise is not only about prayer. God’s name can be praised from the rising of the sun to its setting in all we do and think and say.
It is, of course, important that we offer to God all that we will do at the beginning of each day and to seek his blessing on it at the end of the day – asking forgiveness in those situations where we have done wrong – but then it is important that we get on and do it!
Being diligent and dedicated in our work, bringing some happiness into another person’s life, enjoying an afternoon’s gardening, helping to establish a contented home and family life… the list could go on: all these activities, and any others that you know would be blessed by God, are ways of contributing to the ceaseless round of praise which is due to him.
At the end of the Eucharist we often pray “send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory”. Once we come to realise that every aspect of our lives can be seen as an instrument of praise then we can begin to assess the magnitude of the glory which we help to offer to God,
So, whatever our circumstances, whether we are full of energy and active, or have reached that stage in our lives when we have to accept that contemplation too is a gift from God, the work of prayer and praise goes on – “from the rising of the sun to its setting”.
With every blessing,