Please note that you can find lots of psalm settings and commentaries on this website at psalms of the liturgy 2023

Psalm 85 Commentary.

The selected 6 verses of Psalm 85’s 17 verses make a beautiful direct prayer to God who, right from the start, is recognised as “good and full of love to all who call”. As we move through the complete psalm we find there is a steady staircase of five terms of God’s care in the past, ending with the pair “steadfast love and faithfulness”.

There is a directness in this prayer to God who addressed personally many times as “YOU”, and at least ten times as “My Lord!” There is an honest simple human presence before the incomparable majesty of God: “I am poor and needy. I cry all the day long. I lift up my soul to you. Surely you will answer me, your servant, child of your servant girl!” 

When verse 13 states, “Your love to me has been great in the past”, we find a spirituality that draws on the tradition in which it was nurtured. It recognises there a God of mercy and compassion. In our tradition we may perhaps re-visit those words in our traditional hymn “God of Mercy and Compassion”, but load our recall with the hymn’s modern word setting, which uses this psalm’s emphasis on the constant loving mercy of God rather than on hell and all its torments. 

We might more practically look to the future, and recall that the psalmist is positively looking for fresh personal formation when she sings in verse 11, “Teach me, Lord, Your way, that I may walk forward in your truth!”  

Mercy is a gift for future action.

commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly

Ps 85: words and music Noel Donnelly (c) Kevin Mayhew. Recorded by Grace Buckley

Response: Turn your ear, Lord, hear our prayer, in your compassion walk with us.

Turn your ear and answer us; we are weak and need your care.
You are the God of love and mercy: in you, O Lord, we put our trust.

Give your servants joy each day. You forgive our wand’ring ways.
Guide us each day to walk your pathways.  In you alone we find our peace.

In distress you heard our cry: there is none compared with you!
You are our great and constant comfort, slow to anger, rich in love.

God of mercy, hear our prayer.  In compassion guide our ways.
O give such strength to all your servants that we will walk in love each day.