He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days the righteous will flourish;
prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.
The monthly cycle of psalm-reading (as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer) passed through Psalm 72 last week. The "he" in these verses refers to "the king," as the psalm is a long prayer for God to raise up a just, righteous ruler, one who will protect God's people and foster the conditions necessary for peace and prosperity. It can be understood metaphorically as a prayer for the kingship of Jesus Christ, the one who will rule with perfect justice and truly bring peace on earth.
Verse 6 is where I paused to meditate, appreciating the image of God's blessing entering our lives and work to bring forth life, just like falling rain enters the earth to make good, seeded ground bring up plants. It's an especially apt image right now, at planting time in my part of the world. I prayed for God's blessing to "fall" like the rain does and bring up good stuff in the "ground" that is my life.
I thought I was all done with my prayer time. I was putting my Bible away, starting to move on to the next task, when I felt the pause, like the Spirit sitting me back in my chair. Hold your horses, kiddo. We're not done yet.
Yes, rain is necessary for plants to grow. (All right, it's specifically water that's necessary, but work with me here.) But if you care at all about what the rain is going to coax out of the ground, you need to invest serious and intentional work to prepare the ground for the crop you want. To get a good yield, you need to plow, plant, cultivate, and fertilize. Otherwise your ground will fill up with who-knows-what. Whatever opportunistic seed comes along first. Maybe you'll get some resown leftovers of last year's plants, or maybe some sweet little wildflowers, or maybe stuff with prickles, or maybe something that makes your skin itch. Maybe you'll just get nondescript green things with leaves, not pretty, not useful, not damaging, but not worth taking note of either.
This is the lesson I felt the Spirit give me from this psalm: don't you dare pray for God's blessing to come down like the rain and make your life grow, but not care about what's going to sprout.
If I want a life full of good stuff, useful and beautiful stuff, I need to prep the ground (that is, my life) for it. My daily choices and actions are like planting seeds and pulling weeds. What am I planting, what am I feeding, what am I protecting, what am I uprooting?
If I let any old thing grow up in my life, just whatever opportunistic seed that gets into the ground first, why should I pray and expect God's blessing? Think about it. If I have the habit-equivalent of a kudzu plant sprouting in my life, THE WORST THING God could do for me is water it!
So if I want to pray for the kind of righteousness and prosperity referred to in the psalm, I have work to do first. I need to think about what kinds of good things I want to cultivate, and also ask God what HE wants to cultivate in my life. I need to plant the right seeds (in my choices and actions) to get those things started. I need to pull weeds (distracting choices and actions) that will get in the way of having a good crop. Then I can pray for God's blessing to provide what I can't, like a sown garden needs the rain in order to grow.