During our 2015 Brigg Lent Course we decided to explore some of the prayer traditions of our Christian heritage. My good friend, Fr. Dominic O’Connor, then priest of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, expounded on the use of the Psalms as a Prayer Book, advocating the reading of 5 Psalms each day. Being inspired and challenged, I have for the last year kept up this ‘habit’ – my 5-a-day – working systematically through the entire Book of Psalms 12 times. To help keep it fresh, I have used a number of different translations. In doing so my devotional life has been greatly enriched, as I’ve used these inspiring words over and over again in expressing both the highs (in Your presence is fulness of joy) and lows (My God, why have You abandoned me) of my own heart.

In some respects this reached a ‘crescendo of understanding‘ on the morning of 24th March 2016, as I interacted with that long 119th Psalm. The second verse reads: “Happy are they who obey His instructions, who set their heart on finding Him” (New English Bible). What struck me as I continued to read was the heart spirituality here, akin to that of the Beatitudes, in particular and the New Testament, in general – the deep interiority of these prayers. So I proceeded to underline references to ‘heart’ in the text – bearing in mind that when the psalmist refers to commandments, precepts, ordinances and promises we are to understand the whole counsel of God, revealed in the Scriptures – the written Word. ALSO, remembering how Jesus definitively condensed all the commandments into two, when asked about the greatest commandment, and how He responded with: “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength … Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark’s Gospel)


Reading this great psalm, I was impressed by the frequent use of two phrases: “with all my heart” or “with my whole heart” which I’ve underscored in this little study, hoping it brings blessing your way:

v. 7 “I will praise Thee in sincerity of heart”

v. 10With all my heart I strive to find Thee”

v. 11 “I treasure Thy promise in my heart”

          v. 20 “My heart pines with longing, day and night, for Thy decrees” – (See Wesley’s hymn appended at the end)

v. 32 “I will run the course  (i.e. the way described by St Paul as “a more excellent way” in his prelude to 1 Corinthian 13 – that great anthem of love) set out in Thy commandments (i.e. Love God … Love Your neighbour) for they gladden my heart”

v. 34 “Give me the insight (discernment) to obey Thy law and to keep it with all my heart

v. 36 “Dispose (or incline) my heart towards instruction and not toward ill-gotten gain”

v. 47 “In Thy commandments I find continuing delight; I love them with all my heart

v. 58With all my heart I have tried to please Thee; fulfil Thy promise and be gracious to me”

v. 69 “…I follow Thy precepts with all my heart

v. 80 “Let me give my whole heart to Thy statutes (Word) so that I am not put to shame”

v. 81 “I long with all my heart for Thy deliverance, hoping for the fulfilment of Thy word”

v. 111 “Thy instruction is my everlasting inheritance; it is the joy of my heart”

v. 145 “I call with my whole heart; answer me Lord”

v. 161 “…my heart thrills at Thy word.”


Here is no dull, mechanical, legalistic or slavish adherence to religion, and no mere cerebral assent to theological propositions, but a burning, whole-hearted commitment to a living, loving, listening God, Who will talk to us if we only open our hearts to listen, with the intent to gladly follow the path of love. Perhaps this little known hymn of Charles Wesley might inspire a greater longing for this reality:

O love divine, how sweet Thou art
When shall I find my longing heart
All taken up by Thee
I thirst, I faint, I die to prove
The greatness of redeeming love
The love of Christ to me

Stronger His love than death and hell
Its riches are unsearchable
The first-born sons of light
Desire in vain its depths to see
They cannot reach the mystery
The length, and breadth, and height.

God only knows the love of God,
O that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart
For love I sigh, for love I pine
This only portion, Lord, be mine
Be mine this better part

On Easter Day as we remember the passion of Christ and His triumphant resurrection, I’ll be praying that wonderful Anglican prayer, used at the start of each day:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever. Amen.”

God bless you richly