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Give the king your justice, O God…
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. Psalm 72: 1, 4
What a prayer. Maybe I should wake up and pray that every morning.
I don’t know about you, but watching the news the past few years has felt like an emotional roller coaster with significantly more gut-wrenching drops than scenic climbs.
Psalm 72 is a prayer I have uttered in my own words many times: “Bring justice, God! Give us leaders who act with justice! May they defend the cause of the poor, the vulnerable, and the powerless. May oppression and injustice be crushed to smithereens!”
As a fairly new pastor, I have felt this tension in my one-year tenure: Do I preach about the happenings in the world: immigration, refugees, black lives matter, #metoo? In other words, how do politics fit into our weekly worship, if at all?
Where I serve as a pastor, we often address these concerns in our congregational prayers. We pray for children separated from their families at the border, for victims of floods and hurricanes, for people in war-torn places.
Psalm 72 exclaims that prayers for our political leaders and justice for the poor and needy should be central in our prayers and worship.
The Psalms aren’t the only place. The book of Amos takes it a step further: not only should we be praying for our leaders and for justice to come, we should be participating in justice as an act of worship. God says through the prophet Amos:
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies… Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
In other words, the worship that God desires is the living out of justice and righteousness. Worship is an act that is a continuous movement between prayer and action. Our prayers for justice and our participation in justice it is part of what marks us as the church.
Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote:
The church cannot be deaf or mute before the entreaty of millions of persons who cry for liberation…But the church tells them what is the true liberty they must seek: the freedom that Christ began on earth when he rose and burst the chains of sin, of death, and of hell. It is to be like Christ, free of sin, to be truly free, with true liberation. Those who put their faith in the Risen One and work for a world more just, who protest against the injustices of the present system, against the abuses of unjust authorities, against the wrongfulness of humans exploiting humans, all those who begin their struggle with the resurrection of the great Liberator- they alone are authentic Christians (The Violence of Love, 1988.)
Psalm 72 is a prayer for justice and righteousness for the king, specifically the ruler of Israel. It models for us that we should pray justice in our time and justice for our leaders.
I love that that the Psalm ends with blessing and praise for God. I see this as an acknowledgement that at the end of the day, the ruler with the ultimate power is God. Kings, rulers, presidents, congresswomen and men will rise and fall. They have and always have. We cannot put our hope in one leader or political party. We pray for them, and for justice, fervently. Our hope is in the God of Justice. As the Psalmist writes:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
May our prayers for justice join the Psalmist and the saints who have prayed for the same throughout the ages. Blessed be the Lord.