Help, protection, favor, support, victory: the blessings the psalmist requests makes Psalm 20 sound like an Old Testament Prayer of the Faithful. No one remembered which king or which battle inspired this psalm's composition. But this very lack of specifics made Psalm 20 the psalm to pray on behalf of every king and before every battle. Even more, as Psalm 20 was taken into the liturgy of the Temple, it became not only a plea for one victory of an earthly king, but also a celebration of all the victories of God, the Lord and King of the universe.
 


From the very first centuries of Church history, the Christological implications of Psalm 20 were recognized. To the patristic writers, Psalm 20 was a hymn of the faithful offered on behalf of Jesus Christ as He went forth to the redemptive battle fought and won on the hill of Calvary. For the ancient Jews, the Name of our God was the "heavy artillery" which they brought to bear in battles both military and spiritual. For the early Christians, the Name of JESUS, the Name above every other name, was spiritual artillery infinitely more powerful.


Help, protection, favor, support, victory: to the aspiring 13 the century knight, Francis di Bernardone, these were the graces to be requested as he made ready to go into battle, But God had far different (and far better) plans for the merchant's son. As the future saint of Assisi discerned the Lord's will for his life, he discovered that he was called to be a knight in the Great King's service and that he was to wage battles on the spiritual plane that would have more far-reaching consequences than skirmishes for lands and castles and titles.


In the light of God's plan, Psalm 20, with its plea for victory, took on a whole new meaning for St. Francis of Assisi. Incorporating it into his Office of the Passion, the Little Poor Man made Psalm 20 a prayer for Sundays and feast days, a prayer to be offered at the sixth hour (Sext), the hour which traditionally commemorates Jesus being nailed to the Cross. In the light of the Resurrection, the sixth hour had become an hour of confident hope, filled with surety that God would indeed answer the prayer of the faithful for His Anointed: I am sure now that the Lord will give victory to His Anointed!


Help, protection, favor, support, victory: Psalm 20 remains a prayer for the faithful of today amid the battles of this life. Its Christological, ecclesial and eschatological implications still resound. But St. Francis would also invite us to see Psalm 20 as a prayer for the here-and-now struggles of daily life. For the suffering relative, the overburdened co-worker, the distressed neighbor, there can be no more meaningful plea than that which the psalmist offered so many centuries ago: May the Lord answer in time of trial....May He send you help and give you support.... May the Lord grant all your prayers!







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Psalm 20

 

May the Lord
answer in time of trial;
may the Name of
Jacob's God protect you.
May He send you help
from His shrine
and give you support from Zion.
May He remember
all your offerings
and receive your sacrifice
with favor.
May He give you your heart's desire
and fulfill every one
of your plans.
May we ring out our joy
at your victory and
rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your prayers!
I am sure now
that the Lord will give victory
to His anointed,
will reply from His holy heaven
with the mighty victory
of His hand.
Some trust in chariots or horses
but we in the Name of the Lord.
They will collapse and fall,
but we shall hold
and stand firm.
Give victory to the king,
O Lord,
give answer on the day WE CALL.

 

We Asked!
PART 21