Like any good hymnal, the Psalter has a wide variety of selections.  For the sorrowful, there are laments; for the joyful, hymns of thanksgiving and praise.  There are psalms for specific feasts and psalms for any season.  There are psalms for the morning and psalms for the nighttime.


Psalm 4 is a psalm for the night.  In ancient usage, when faced with trial and tribulation, devout Jews would pass the night in the Temple, in hope of finding favor with God.  There the vigil of prayer would give way to trustful sleep, for the suppliant knew that the Lord gives to His beloved while they slumber. Ps. 126:2


The Gospels show Jesus praying in the night and through the night.  In the temple of His Body, the prayer which is Psalm 4 found its ultimate fulfillment.  The Lord hears me whenever I call!  I thank You, Father, for having heard me.  You always hear me! John 11:41-42  You have put into my heart a greater joy.  That my joy may be in you … and no one will take your joy from you. John 15:11; 16:22   O men, how long will your hearts be closed?  Jesus was grieved by their hardness of heart. (cf. Mark 3:5)


With his great desire to follow Christ in all things, St. Francis of Assisi often made the words of Scripture his own.  Thus, in his First Admonition, the Little Poor Man, grieved at that particular form of closed-heartedness which is lack of faith, cries out in the words of Psalm 4:  O sons of men, how long will your hearts be closed?  Why do you not recognize and believe in the Son of God? Like his Divine Master, Francis grieved for those who refused to open their hearts to God and His ways, those who opted instead to love what it is futile and seek what is false. 


It is ironic that the ones who have closed their hearts to God are often the first to ask: What can bring us happiness?  Francis knew the answer, for he had let the light of God’s face shine on him and in him.   Striving to be open to the Lord and His way of working, the Seraphic Father was ready to receive into his heart the greater joy, the joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the joy which God alone can give and which no one can take away.


There are many reasons – physical, emotional, environmental – why we may not be able to say with the psalmist: I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once.  St. Francis invites us to take a look at our heart.  Is it closed in self-concern?  Or is it open in faith, so that God can put into it His greater joy?  When the greater joy, who is Christ, dwells in our hearts, Psalm 4 becomes more than a beautiful formula to pray before retiring.  It becomes a song of the night of the spirit, a song of the night of the tomb.  It assures us, as it did our Lord, as it did St. Francis, that we can entrust even our sleep to our Father, the God of justice, confident that in Him we will be given life, happiness, grace, holiness… and Resurrection.  Who would not want to respond to the Scriptural cry which still rings down the centuries: Open your hearts!

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Psalm 4

















“What can bring us happiness?”

many say.

Let the light of your face

shine on us, O Lord.

Fear Him, do not sin:

ponder on your bed and be still.

Make justice your sacrifice

and trust in the Lord.








I will lie down in peace

and sleep comes at once,

for You alone, Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

You have put into my heart

a greater joy than they have

from abundance of corn

and new wine.

It is the Lord who grants favors

to those whom He loves;

the Lord hears me

whenever I call Him.

O men, how long

will your hearts be closed,

will you love what is futile

and seek what is false?

When I call, answer me,

O God of justice;

from anguish You released me;

have mercy and hear me!

Open Your Hearts!