Just had a great time saying good night to my kids and praying Psalm 67 verse 1 together. Trouble is we kept coming up against words and phrases that needed a bit of explanation or thinking about.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us. Psalm 67:1
First what is “gracious”? Well, if I was naughty and rude to my parents all day and my Dad gave me a present of a brand new bicycle then that would be pretty gracious. Why? because I didn’t earn it. In fact quite the opposite. I only get it because of my Dad’s love and generosity and money. That is “grace”; when someone does something good to you, not because of anything in you but because of something in them and that something is called love. They love you and want to…well that’s when we come to the other tricky word “bless” which is really the other wing of the same butterfly. “bless” means, I think, “to do good to” or “to make happy”. God is gracious to us in that he does us good and makes us happy, not because we deserve it but because he loves us.
Then we come to the nice sounding but, if you are not familiar with it, slightly opaque phrase “make his face shine upon us”. What shines? A sun. Why is a sun good? Because it gives us light and warmth and makes things grow. Most people prefer summer to winter, or at least sun bathing to sitting in a bath of ice cubes with the lights turned off. Sun equals life and sun equals nice holidays, but suns don’t have faces because they are not people. They are impersonal balls of burning hydrogen. You can’t know a sun, or talk to a sun or love and be loved by a sun.
Babies love smiley faces. Parents instinctively move in close to their children and smile and coo at them. They are establishing and strengthening a relationship that will grow and nourish the child. When two people looking into each others eyes, whether they are lovers or boxers, there is a heightened sense of personal connection. Face equals person and face equals relationship.
Putting it all together what we have then is a prayer that is asking God to do us good and make us happy, not because we deserve it, but because of his unfathomably great love for us. How does he do us good? He brings us into a personal relationship with him. As we come to know him, his love for us brings us life and warmth and growth and joy.
Now that is a prayer worth praying. Goodnight!