Home » Spiritual Direction » The 70th Psalm and the Monks of the Thebaid

The 70th Psalm and the Monks of the Thebaid

There is a paraphrase at the beginning of Palm 70 that makes the following plea, “O God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me!” This prayer of pleading is used as the beginning invocation in many devotions and office hours (scheduled times of prayer) that people use in prayer. The Psalm itself is a prayer of pleading concerning the enemies one is facing. This is a prayer for rescue. It is not a prayer for strength, for courage, for perseverance, it is a pleading to God because only God can change the outcome. There is nothing we can do and everything we can do. We can pray.

Can we really change the outcome? This is the wrong question. The right question is, “Can God influence this situation; respond to this prayer? Do we believe God will consider our cry? A prayer willing to trust, “Not my will Lord but your will,” is that needs to be God’s need for us to understand.

From the fourth century A.D., the desert Thebaid of Egypt was the home of thousands of monks and nuns who made the desert a city peopled with Christians striving toward heaven in the angelic way of life.[1] This prayer from the beginning of Psalm 70 vocalizes the real struggle we face every day. Our existence in this world is one of physical struggles and of a spiritual struggle every day of our lives. Psalm 70 speaks to the very real possibility of threat, a feeling of coming despair, and the fear we encounter when we realize we are not in control. We often just do not realize how much we are embraced by God’s grace and control in this world. We live in a relationship with a God who is always working for our good. Not through force but with the influence of faith.

A ritual of prayer invoking the fast intercession and immediate mercy can help us maintain a good anchor for the discernment of God’s desire for us daily. Such is the gift of information and aid of the contemplative practices of believers of the past. In this way, we do not just connect, but build roots.

[1] sjkp.org/products/the-northern-thebaid-monastic-saints-of-the-russian-north

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