This article is part of the How to Pray series.
A Pathway for Prayer
Psalm 92 crescendos with an extraordinary promise: “The righteous flourish . . . They still bear fruit in old age” (Ps. 92:12–14). In God’s sweet providence, I began studying this psalm about a year before my eightieth birthday, asking the Lord to teach me how to glorify him in old age. Not only did he teach me about this promise, he also gave me a pathway to pray, think, and live biblically when my beloved husband went to heaven after a short illness and I entered the unknowns of being a widow.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name.
O Most High. (Psalm 92:1)
When I burst into God’s presence with my panicked prayers for deliverance from sorrow and suffering and my solutions for how it should all turn out, I miss the wonder of being still and knowing deep in my soul that he is God (Ps. 46:10). Psalm 92 reorients my focus from self to God by using two of God’s names.
LORD, the English translation of the Hebrew name Yahweh, is God’s personal name whereby he reveals himself as a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who establishes a personal relationship with us. This name reminds me that before he created the world, the Father loved me, chose me in Christ, and predestined me for adoption through Christ (Eph. 1:3–14).
The name Most High describes God’s sovereignty, majesty, and transcendent glory.
This knowledge of the familial nearness of God as my Father and the glorious transcendence of God as my King strengthens and stretches my heart to trust him even in the unsettling life-changes of aging.
When our prayers begin with the desire to know and worship God, to listen to him as he speaks in his word, to speak his word back to him in prayer, and to be transformed into his likeness, we flourish with the hope to which he has called us (Eph. 1:18).
Father, thank you that you are “near to all who call on you, to all who call on you in truth” (Ps. 145:18). “Show me now your ways, that I may know you . . . Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:13, 18) and transform me “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18) so I reflect the glory of your character even as my physical body becomes weak and frail. Thank you that though my outer self is wasting away, you are renewing my inner self day by day and using my momentary afflictions of aging to prepare for me an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as I look not to the transient things that are seen, but to the eternal things that are unseen (2 Cor. 4:16–18).
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name,
O Most High. (Psalm 92:1)
It’s tempting to allow the sorrow and suffering of old age to consume us, making us self-focused, critical and bitter. Psalm 92 shows a better way. We age with grace as we grow in the grace of gratitude. Paul tells those who are in Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18).
All is such an inclusive word. Giving thanks in all circumstances is beyond our natural ability. But as we trust the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth to keep his promise to be with us always (Matt. 28:18) and to work all things together for our good to conform us to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:28–29), he empowers us to give thanks in all things.
Father, give me the grace of gratitude to look back and see how you used all things—my sin, the sin of others against me, my times of weeping and times of rejoicing—to shape me into your likeness. Forgive me for the bitterness, unforgiveness, disappointment in others, and frustration because of unmet expectations that lurks in my heart. Give me a heart of submission to, gratitude for, and contentment in whatever you ordain for me.
It is good . . . to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night. (Psalm 92:1–2)
Steadfast love, sometimes translated as loving-kindness, is the Hebrew word hesed, a potent word that means much more than our English word expresses. Hesed refers to God’s covenant loyalty in keeping his promises, whatever the cost. And it cost him his Son. his steadfast love for us and his faithfulness to us is the hope of the gospel.
As Gene and I declared the gospel to ourselves, and to others as we had opportunity, we experienced blessed assurance. And this assurance grows as I grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13).
Thank you, Triune One, for choosing, saving, and sanctifying me. Thank you that “your steadfast love endures forever” (Pss. 106:1; 100:5) so neither death nor life, not things present nor things to come, nor old age, nor grief, nor anything else can separate me from your love and faithfulness (Rom. 8:37–39). Thank you that you never forget me. You are always with me. May this gospel reality be evident in my thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:4)
As I studied Psalm 92, I began praying that I would not expect people, things, and circumstances to make me glad. I reflected on Jesus’s words: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). I rejoiced in the beauty of God’s handiwork in nature and the work of his hands as they were nailed to the cross for our salvation.
God’s children are planted in his household. We are his family. We belong.
Jesus is the source, and the work of his hands is the reason for the ineffable joy I have experienced in the sweet and sacred journey of grief. I can’t explain how grief and gladness can co-exist, but I can say that my joy is big enough to contain my grief. I grieve, but not as those without joy. My prayer as I wake up, and throughout the day, is “Make me glad with the joy of your Presence” (Ps. 21:6).
Father, forgive me for depending on others, or on how I feel or look, or on my financial security to make me glad. Thank you that Jesus gives me his joy. Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love, that I may rejoice and be glad all my days (Ps. 90:14). “Gladden the soul of your servant . . . For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace” (Ps. 86:4–6). By your grace, may I steward well the gift of joy and leave a legacy of joy to the next generation.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. (Ps. 92:12-14)
The world devalues aging, but God’s word says we can be fruitful and multiply spiritually in old age. This flourishing is a result of our union with Christ. This is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), the fruit of repentance (Matt. 3:8), and “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11). This fruit becomes sweeter with age.
God’s children are planted in his household. We are his family. We belong. We are never homeless; he is our home—always was and always will be.
God sovereignly plants us in the place on the planet, during the specific time in history, in the family and church where he intends for us to be nurtured, to serve, and to flourish. This is the place where we learn about God’s grace and where we see the sufficiency and specificity of his grace in the lives of his people. We see that when it’s time to age, he gives aging grace. When it’s time to suffer, he gives suffering grace. When it’s time to grieve, he gives grieving grace. When it’s time to die, he gives dying grace. We flourish in community.
Father, thank you for my own family and the church family where you planted me. Give me grace to love and pray for them and to encourage them to flourish. Help us to grow together in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). May the fruit of repentance and the fruit of the Spirit flourish in us as you lead us in the path of righteousness for your name’s sake. Thank you that we will dwell in your house forever (Ps. 23:6).
Susan Hunt is the coauthor with Sharon Betters of Aging with Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture.
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