Thirsty Thursday: Psalm 67 – Praying into the “so that”

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

 (Psalm 67:1-2, 6-7)

Praying into the “so that”

I read a story a while back, written by a journalist who was interested in the shift away from the agricultural roots of our nation’s past into the post-industrial, urban realities of our present time. In the article, the interviewer asked one older farmer “So, do you like being a farmer?” He went on to expand on his question—asking about the relentless daily grind, economic or weather-related uncertainties, the rural lifestyle, the financial risks and rewards. The farmer considered the interviewer’s question for a moment and replied, “I guess I never thought about it in that way…I mean, ‘do I like it?’ It’s just what I am…it’s who I am. And I know there’s a whole lot of people who have food on the table because of what I do.”

The farmer and the interviewer had different assumptions about work. Is our work a job that we do, or is it a part of who we are? Does satisfaction come from what we get out of it, or it is found in knowing why it matters in the first place? Am I a farmer “so that” I will be blessed and happy in what I do, or “so that” a whole lot of people will have food on their table?” The interviewer discovered that it’s important to identify the “so that.”

Well-intentioned churches and Jesus followers don’t always agree on “so that.”

In Psalm 67, the writer is keenly aware of the importance of identifying the right “so that.” He begins the song asking for God’s grace and blessing. The words are almost a mirror image of the most famous blessing in the Old Testament, when God instructs Aaron and his sons:

“This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:23-26)

It’s a blessing that we love to hear and would love to receive. For most of us, it’s what we signed up for when we started following Jesus—the blessing, the presence, and the grace of God in our lives. The psalm writer doesn’t challenge that famous blessing, but his does lean into the “so that:”

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations
. (vs. 1-2)

The song leads us into a prayer for “all the peoples” and all the “nations of the earth” (vs. 3-5), and then concludes with the “so that” refrain,

May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him. (vs. 7)

“So that” is a pretty important part of other biblical prayers as well. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple, he asked for God’s blessing for himself and for the people of Israel, but he was careful to remind himself, and the people, and God, of the “so that.”

“And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.” (1 Kings 8:59-60)

Jesus himself, in his beautiful priestly prayer for his disciples, was mindful of both the blessing he was seeking and the implication of the “so that,”

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

I wonder, is “so that” an integral part of my prayer life—like it was for the psalmist, and Solomon, and Jesus? If I belong to Jesus, of course I want the blessing and the presence and the grace he offers. And of course, it’s OK that we would want to “like it.” But I wonder how much more of that blessing we would see if we began to pray into the “so what.” Receive this blessing today:

May God bless you today; may he make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord uphold your cause according to each day’s need; may the Father make us one with each other and with him…so that His ways will be known on the earth, so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, so that the world may believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all, and so that in believing they will find real life in him.

Let’s make the “so that” part of our prayers today…so that we will receive his blessing and so that others will come to know the only source of Living Water. Stay thirsty, my friends!

Pastor Philip

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