I’m reading Psalm 103 as part of my prayer time this morning. The psalm begins this way . . .
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (verses 1-5).
David, the psalm’s God-inspired composer, is singing of the benefits of the Lord. This is why he begins praising the Lord. One might call this an exercise in positive thinking. It’s far more than that, of course, but not less. David thinks positively about the Lord’s benefits, so is moved to “bless” (praise) the Lord.
Are we moving dangerously close here to the psycho-babble of professed Christians whose entire “gospel” is “you are what you think” and “create reality with your words” and “name it and claim it”? Not really. We’re just stealing the content of their words (“God wants me rich” or “God wants me healthy”) and replacing it with the content of God’s. “The Lord . . . forgives all your iniquity . . . heals all your diseases” and so on.
Thinking or saying those words carry greater impact to us when we personalize them like this . . .
The LORD forgives all my iniquity, heals all my diseases, redeems my life from the pit, crowns me with steadfast love and mercy, satisfies me with good so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
For even more personal impact, turn it into a prayer . . .
Lord, you forgive all my iniquity, you heal all my diseases, you redeem my life from the pit, you crown me with steadfast love and mercy, you satisfy me with good so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Notice a huge change in focus? The positive-thinkers’ approach finishes by putting the focus on the benefit you want (wealth, health, a BMW, etc.) while the Bible’s approach finishes by putting the focus on the Lord. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (103:1). Are we still remembering all his benefits? Absolutely. They’re benefits we enjoy. But they are his benefits. So, while remembering his benefits, the focus shifts from forgiveness and healing and redemption and goodness that we enjoy to the Lord who gives them to us.
The result? We treasure the Benefit-Giver more than the benefits. To put it another way, in a world where life is short (103:15,16) and suffering is real (103:l6), we become Lord-praisers. For our mind remembers his benefits and can’t help but turn to bless his holy name.