The psalm starts “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 all his benefits. ” Then the writer identifies some of the things that the Lord has done.
But the energy of the song gives only one interpretation of the text. When I read that Sunday morning, it wasn’t with a cheerful voice. It was a distracted voice, a heart that could not focus. I was making lists, identifying projects, thinking about everything.
You know that feeling, I’m guessing. It might be you right now. You are trying to concentrate on these words, trying to figure out how to listen to God.
I read the first line. My mind wandered. I read the second line, same words. I read through the list of “benefits.” And then I read through them again. And then again.
Somehow, the repeated phrases, the rhythm of the words captured my attention:
I wasn’t happy and bouncy. It was halting and thought-provoking. And, you will notice, it isn’t exactly a prayer. Psalm 103 doesn’t talk to God at all. It talks to me about paying attention to God. Kind of like, “Okay self, focus, you can do this.” Or, like the little engine that could: “I think I can, I think I can.” But unlike the engine, this is not the kind of self-talk that motivates, it’s the self-talk that points to God.
When we get frustrated with our inability to concentrate, we’re not the first. But consider David’s words: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
I wrote this a decade ago (give or take a week). I needed to reread it. I thought you might, too.