The final section of Psalm 103 was originally an independent psalm. No one knows exactly when it was joined to Psalm 103, although scholars surmise that it may have been when Psalm 103 was taken into the schema of Temple worship. These additional verses widen considerably the text's horizon of praise and teach a very important lesson about prayer — a lesson that was not lost on the Little Poor Man of Assisi.

The lesson is quite simple: prayer is always "bigger than us." Even the most personal, most intimate act of prayer has universal, and even cosmic, implications. It could not be otherwise. For even though we are small, finite, limited, sinful creatures, the One to whom we pray is infinite, omnipotent, eternal. To speak with God, to pray to Him who is in all and above all and working through all (cf. Eph. 4:6), is to mysteriously draw all of creation with us into the circle of a loving, trusting, filial relationship with the Creator of the universe.

In the final verses of Psalm 103, the angelic hosts are invited — by a lowly mortal, no less — to join in blessing the Lord for the marvels of His mercy. He asks the angels to praise God with him not just for the personal mercies which were previously enumerated, nor only for the salvific mercies which the Almighty bestowed on His chosen people throughout history. Human praise is simply not enough to thank God for the boundless, unfathomable, ineffable goodness which He is. Hence, it made good sense to the psalmist to invite his elder brothers in creation — the angels — to assist him in the blessed task of grateful praise.


St. Francis, as an accomplished student of-the Gospels, was aware of the place which the angels held in salvation history. From the Annunciation to the Ascension, angels were present and active in the life of our Lord: announcing His birth, ministering to Him in the desert, consoling Him in the garden, proclaiming His Resurrection and assuring the disciples of His final return in glory. The Seraphic Father could point to angelic interventions in his own life — angels consoling him in sickness, protecting him in danger, preparing him for the unfolding of God's will. On Mount LaVerna, our Lord even appeared to Francis in the form of a Crucified Seraph -- the highest of the angels -- to imprint on his body the wounds of the Sacred Passion.

Psalm 103 provides the key to St. Francis' great admiration for the angels. This psalm proclaims that these heavenly spirits are those who, mighty in power, fulfill [God's] word, who heed the voice of His word They are servants who do [God's] will. The angels offered Francis a pattern of obedience, an example of whole-hearted, dedicated service to their Creator which flowered into an existence of unceasing praise of God. It is not surprising that the Little Poor Man, who felt such a spiritual kinship with the angels, would make the psalmist's invitation his own: Bless the Lord, all you His angels! And with the angelic hosts on his "prayer team," the praise which the Seraphic Father offered to God Most High expanded mightily.

This angelic expansion can be ours as well. We only need to do what St. Francis did to make this psalm come alive and allow God's kingdom to rule over all in our lives. Like the Little Poor Man, we too can heed God's voice, fulfill His word and do His will. Then the angels will be glad to join their praise to ours as we say (and sing): Bless the Lord, my soul!

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The Lord has set His sway in heaven
and His kingdom is ruling over all.
Give thanks to the Lord, all His angels,
mighty in power, fulfilling His word,
who heed the voice of His word.


Give thanks to the Lord, all His hosts,
His servants who do His will.
Give thanks to the Lord, all His works,
in every place where He rules.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord!

Angelic Expansion