Prayer and The Nature of God in Psalm 103

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From Psalm 103:

“Praise the Lord, my soul!
All my being, praise his holy name!
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and do not forget how kind he is.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave
and blesses me with love an mercy.
He fills my life with good things,
so that I stay young and strong
like an eagle.”

In these opening lines, David, the psalmist, is filled with an intense joy. He is personally aware of the blessings God has placed upon him. His heart is so full of love for God that he can hardly contain himself. He begins to name the Nature of God to us in this ecstatic prayer. He opens praising God’s kindness. David has experienced that kindness through God’s forgiveness for his sins. Yes, even his scandalous sins. He has experienced God’s love in his mercy and through his generosity, for his life has been filled with good things.

“The Lord judges in favor of the oppressed
and gives them their rights.”

These lines reveal the Nature of God in a profoundly important way. We see David’s recognition that God has a special love and concern for those who suffer from the effects of injustices of all kinds. Those who have been marginalized by hate and indifference have a mighty defender on their side, the Lord God of Hosts. He will not only give them his love and support, he will insure that they will, in the end, receive what is their due. Their rights will be restored to them.

“The Lord is merciful and loving,
slow to become angry and full of constant love.
He does not keep on rebuking;
he is not angry forever.
He does not punish us as we deserve,
or repay us according to our sins and wrongs.”

In these lines we see that God’s Nature is so loving that he cannot be but merciful. He cannot remain angry with us. Like a father who loves his children, he is just. He forgets our sins after he forgives us. He cannot remain angry with us, because he loves us with his whole being. He does not keep reminding us of our errors, like so many of us do to those who have offended us. He does not punish us as we might deserve in human thinking. He is not motivated by revenge. His love is beyond the limits of our human thinking.

“As high as the sky is above the earth,
so great is his love for those who reverence him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our sins from us.
As a father is kind to his children,
so the Lord is kind to those who honor him.”

This verse reveals how great God’s love and mercy is for his children. David, still ecstatic with a soul deep joy, reveals the most profound element of God’s love for us. He is our Father. His love for us is immeasurable. His forgiveness is complete, unlimited, and eternal. The kindness of a good earthly father is used to express his love and mercy toward his children, but it is only a hint, a shadow of the limitless love and mercy that our Heavenly Father has for us.

This is only half of Psalm 103. It is one of the most beautiful and joyful of all of the psalms. This small essay is only an invitation to open the scriptures and to read the psalm in its entirety. If you feel the need to find words for the joy you are experiencing in your own relationship with God, this is a good prayer to go to, to help you express in words what you feel in your heart. If you are in need of some uplift, this is a good psalm to go to. It will give your drooping heart reason to rise up again. They are great starters for that purpose. You will come to know God more intimately through these very intimate expressions written by a man who knew and needed God’s love and mercy, just like we do. God wants this kind of personal, knowing relationship with you too.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.