The words of this prayer for a newly installed king apply just as readily to leaders of countries with a different form of government. They surely embody hopes and aspirations that I would wish for the United States of America. Yet many Americans, influenced deeply by the “gospel” of Ayn Rand, might find the focus on the poor and needy hard to accept and apply. The Israelite people, to be sure, pray for other concerns connected with their concept of righteousness (tzedek), or fair judgment. But the author of this psalm equates righteousness specifically with defending the poor and delivering the needy. Likewise, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus defines giving of alms for the needy as “righteousness” (dikaiosune). (See Matthew 6:1-2.) Prayer for the poor and needy is not a casual element in Jewish piety; it is central.

The question is this: Where does such concern come from? The psalmist asserts that human concern for the poor and needy stems from God’s concern. God instills righteous and compassionate character. So the prayer opens with the plea, “Give to the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.” Righteousness belongs to God’s very nature, and if we claim to know God, we should reflect it instinctively. Jesus once again echoes such thinking in the parable of the last judgment. (See Matthew 25:31-46.) Those invited into the kingdom of heaven will be those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and welcome strangers into their homes without even thinking about it. Indeed, these actions are so natural for those who will enter the kingdom of heaven that when the Master says they have been invited because they do these things for him, they have to ask, “When?”

O God, grant our leaders your righteousness, so that they will defend the cause of the poor and deliver the needy who have no helper. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 3:13-17

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Lectionary Week
January 6–12, 2020
Scripture Overview

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Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 42:1-9. What does it mean for Jesus to be a Servant Messiah? In what ways does God suffer with or for you?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14. As children of God, we are called to reflect God’s righteousness. How do you defend the poor and deliver the needy?
Read Acts 10:34-43. Consider the author’s proposal that those who fear God and do what is right may include people of other faiths. What would this mean for your faith and your relationships with those of other faiths?
Read Matthew 3:13-17. Remember your baptism. Did you make the decision to be baptized or did someone else make the decision for you? How does remembering your baptism guide you to do what God wants?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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