| By Justin McClain, O.P.

Praying Psalm 23

Giving thanks and receiving consolation

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.” (Ps 23:1-3)

Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known psalm. It begins with the iconic words: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack.” If we think about this sentence for a moment, and we are truly praying the words and not simply reciting them, it is a profound statement. If the Lord is truly our shepherd, and we are his sheep, we lack nothing because we hear God’s voice and follow him with all our heart. The words of Psalm 23 remind us to step back from our earthly burdens and allow God to provide for us in this life, in anticipation of an eternal life in his presence. All of the struggles, difficulties and challenges we encounter in this life can lead us to think we are alone in turbulent waters, but we read in the next line that the Lord stills those waters for us. It isn’t always easy to place our trust in God, but when we do, we realize our Good Shepherd will not leave us to wander through life alone.

Although there are several paths in life that promise “success” by worldly standards if we follow them, only by following the Lord and trusting in his promises will we have true spiritual satisfaction, since “he guides [us] along right paths for the sake of his name.”

The psalmist is offering God a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, for, as he says, he “will dwell in the House of the Lord for endless days.” As we meditate on this psalm, let us thank God for the many ways he provides for us. So often our prayers are those of petition or supplication; we are asking God for something. Let Psalm 23 be our prayer in appreciation for all the good things God gives to us: the gift of life and the gifts of love and friendship we enjoy with others. And when we pray, let us be open to hearing his word.

When it comes to spiritual fitness, the psalms provide great consolation as we look to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. The psalms show us that God understands the fullness of the human condition; he “gets” what we are going through. Although the psalms were written about 3,000 years ago by King David and others, they still give us an abundance of inspiration when we try to follow God’s holy will.

As we reflect on Psalm 23, let us ask ourselves:

  • In what ways do you let God shepherd you throughout life?
  • Reflect on what you want—is it oriented toward God’s will, and if not, what should you truly be asking him for?
  • In what ways has God provided for you, and how have you shown your gratitude to him?

Justin McClain, O.P. is a veteran Catholic educator and catechist, and a professed Lay Dominican. He is the author of several books, available from Ave Maria Press.