“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever” In this opening line, we are given a clear example of prayer, and example worthy of being followed and practiced often. All of our prayer should begin with thanksgiving. Yes, even our prayers in troubled times, as was the case here in this psalm. We can give thanks because God is the source of all that is good. Indeed, he is Goodness itself. It follows, then, that his desires and intentions toward us are always good. His chief good toward us, in our fallen nature, is his mercy. That mercy, rooted in his goodness and his perfect love for us, is eternal.
God’s mercy is at the core of our faith. We know that from The Fall of Adam and Eve, God’s love and mercy has remained true and faithful even to this day. We know this in a way that the people who wrote and prayed this psalm for centuries before Christ could not know. We know this because we have seen the Messiah. The promise that the Chosen People were given from Abraham down through the millennia has been fulfilled in Jesus. The action of salvation has been accomplished. The suffering servant has come, the great sacrifice has been made, and sin and death no longer have dominion over us.
Yet, we still live in the world. We are still weak and fallen in our daily lives. We fall for the temptations of this Vanity Fair more times than we care to admit. Our faith challenges our weakness. It is our faith alone that moves us toward the mercy of God, especially when we fall short in our daily lives. It is our faith that enlightens our consciences, that calls us to sorrow and repentance. It is our faith that gives us the wisdom to turn back to God, knowing deep down, below our doubts, that God’s mercy is faithful and true. It is this faith that gives us the deep and true desire to repent and to bend our wills, our egos, to the will of God. It is this faith gives us the courage to walk in his ways, especially in those times that we are tried. And this faith is God’s great gift to us. This is why it is always appropriate to begin our prayers in thanksgiving and praise.
This psalm repeats the idea that God’s mercy endures forever three times at the beginning of the prayer. It recognizes that the Lord is with us and that this knowledge in faith takes away our fears. What can mortals do that can take this faith away from me? It is in the faith of God’s enduring mercy that we can face the toughest of times, the greatest of challenges. It is in him alone that we can take refuge and find courage for the long pilgrimage of life. With faith in him we can endure any trial. And this prayer ends the way it began, that is, giving thanks to God. “You are my God, I give you thanks; my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever” (verses 28-29).
Lord, let us begin and end our days with thanksgiving. Let our hearts be filled with the joy that can come only from you. In you is our hope. With your enduring mercy, we are given the confidence to answer your call to love as you loved. In this we can give you thanks with truly humble and contrite hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!