The first RE lesson at Secondary School was given over to learning ‘the School Psalm’ so that we could begin the Assembly every Monday (and any number of other special occasions) by rising and singing it without books. It turns out to have been the most useful RE lesson I ever had. Having it by heart has been the most useful tool for ministry ever since, whether reverting to the old Prayer Book text or venturing off into newer translations and even pastiches.
When someone wants me to pray for them but I have no idea what to say, I begin:
I will lift up my eyes to the hills
but from where can I find any help?
When an evangelical wants me to take a turn at extempore prayer and I don’t want to parody his ‘Lord we just want to ask you’, I continue:
My help comes from the Lord:
who made both hills and heaven.
When I’m at the a grave side and the wind has lost my place in the book, I pick up:
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.
Being asked to bless someone’s house, I include:
Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel:
shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Called to the Hospital bedside of someone dying last week, I prayed:
The Lord himself is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand.
Seeking calm ahead of a hostile encounter, I think:
The sun will not burn us up:
the moon will not threaten us.
When called to reassure someone in distress, I say:
The Lord shall keep you from all evil:
it is he who shall keep your soul.
In circumstances I haven’t yet imagined, I trust:
The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in:
from this time forth and for evermore.