The lives of the faithful in ancient Israel were oriented around a calendar of worship to help them stay connected to God and true to their identity. Every year they would take a journey to Jerusalem – the physical and symbolic center of their identity, faith, and culture. The Psalms of Ascent are a collection of Psalms (Psalm 120-134) that were sung on that journey.
They cover themes of hope amidst oppression, a longing for return, and for future peace and prosperity. Some of them convey an expectation of a coming Savior. And there is a progression to the Psalms: they start at a low point, progress into gratitude and hope, and end on a high with praise and worship of God’s goodness.
I think these Psalms are helpful for us on our journey. Like Israel, we are on a pilgrimage, and much of it is worked out through our everyday work. Like Israel, we experience some level of exile, seeking the flourishing of a world that is not our home. And like Israel, we need to orient our lives and process our work experiences through the past work of what God has done, the current reality of his presence with us, and the future hope of the renewal of all things.
I’ve chosen a few sections of these Psalms and written a workplace prayer influenced by them. I encourage you to go on your own journey over the next five days – spend time meditating on one of these Psalms and praying, either for your own situation or that of a colleague or friend.
Psalm 121:1-8 – God is our help
God, you are my help. Remind me of who you are today – you are the maker of heaven and earth, you keep me from stumbling, you watch over me. When I forget you’re with me, remind me to lift my eyes – you’re there. I can trust you. There’s nothing in my day in which you are not with me. Help me live with that confidence today.
Psalm 127:1-2 – God does the work
God, I am quick to work as if it all depends on me. As if I have to earn my significance, prove my value, make things happen with the force of my own will. That is not what you intended. Remind me that success depends on you and your plan. Help me work with all my heart, but to work in response to your leadership – to look to you and trust you in the work.
Psalm 130:1-8 – God hears us in our distress
God, I need you. I am in a mess. I’d like to blame someone else, but I know I’ve screwed up, too. Help me accept your grace and pass on your grace. I wait for you – everything in me wants you to show up. To help me know what action to take. To help me know what word to say. I wait for you. You are my hope, and you will make things right.
Psalm 132:10-18 – asking God to make good on his promise
God, you promise to be with us, you promise an abundant life, you promise to give us peace that surpasses understanding. And you promise to establish your kingdom. Right now I don’t feel those things, and I don’t see your kingdom where I am at work. Make good on your promise, Lord, and use me as you see fit to bring your kingdom here.
Psalm 133:1-3 – desire for unity
You are a God of love. You created us out of a perfect loving community for perfect loving community. Thank you for the glimpses of that community that we have at work. I pray that would happen more and more often. Help me and my coworkers experience the life-giving community that you desire.
The Psalms are a gift to us. They help us develop the language of prayer and allow room for every emotion and experience. So wherever you are on your faith and work journey, let the Psalms guide you into a deeper abiding relationship with Jesus today.