Teach Us To Pray (Psalm 137)

(5 Minute Read)

Read Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

The idea of  home is moving and mysterious. It names a place as well as a longing. The concept of home pulls together the past, present, and future—where you came from, where you live, and where you trust you will always be welcome. Home means safety, belonging, wholeness, identity, rest, togetherness, and dependability. Home helps us to know who we are.

So as “citizens of heaven,” how do we take up the ancient songs of Israel, for whom home was an earthly location? In the words of Augustine, "God is our homeland; to him we must fly.” This doesn’t mean escaping everything else but rather learning to dwell in the presence of God always and everywhere—to commune with him precisely in and through his beloved creation. Because of  the work of Christ and the Spirit, heaven is arriving. Our home is always already here.

But on our journey into God, we sometimes experience spiritual exile and homelessness, in which we feel disconnected, displaced, and dispersed. In life and prayer, God seems absent and we feel far from ourselves. The world around us seems emptied of his presence. In these seasons, the songs of Israel can be a great comfort to us—even though they might not answer our doubts and desperations.

It is also important to remember that this is a communal prayer. I am not an isolated individual struggling to find a home. I am a part of a pilgrim people, the Church, who look forward for the fulfillment of all their hopes in the New Jerusalem.

Pray Psalm 137 again, translating Israel’s longing for Jerusalem into your desire for the presence of God. Pray that the sighs and songs of his people would be heard, even from Babylon where we feel far from our home in him. Pray that we would never forget him. Pray that Christ, our Rock, would shatter every little insignificant thing born in your heart that separates you from God’s presence.

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Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Deeper Dive Podcast

About the Author

Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC