Psalm 23 – The Prayer
This is designed to be used as a prayer retreat for those who want a more intimate fellowship with God. This is not about making prayer requests, but has everything to do with fellowship. In dialogue, speak to the Shepherd of Psalm 23. Be still, listen and meet with the Lord.
By John David Hicks
I picture David as a young shepherd boy, lying on his back in a pasture, looking at the stars, and meditating on the things of God. For David to write Psalm 23, he had to have thought of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. He knew that sheep cannot survive in the wild without a shepherd. So David wrote down what the Lord showed him about Himself. God gave David this revelation to help him fight his battles and carry the burdens he had to endure in his journey of life.
As you read this psalm, read it slowly. Pause and close your eyes and meditate on what the Lord is saying to you. Then speak it back to the Lord in a prayer. This psalm is for you—for the Lord calls His own sheep by name; He cares for them and they follow Him.
The Lord is my shepherd
That’s about relationship! “Lord, You are my shepherd and king.”
(Meditate on the Lord’s revelation to you).
I shall not want
That’s about supply! “Lord, You meet all my needs.”
He makes me lie down in green pastures
That’s about rest! “Lord, You take away my striving and give me peace.”
He leads me beside the still waters
That’s about refreshment! “Lord, You satisfy my thirst and refresh me.”
He restores my soul
That’s about transformation! “Lord, You are my healer and counselor.”
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
That’s about holiness! “Lord, You have accepted, forgiven, justified, and sanctified me.”
For His name’s sake
That’s about purpose! “Lord, You know my name, character, and destiny.”
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
That’s about testing! “Lord, You let me see light in the midst of darkness.”
I will fear no evil
That’s about protection! “Lord, You are my watchman and stronghold. I need not fear.”
For Thou art with me
That’s about faithfulness! “Lord, in Your presence I receive Your joy and peace.”
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me
That’s about defense! “Lord, Your power, mercy, and favor protect me.”
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
That’s about security! “Lord, Your presence in me has made me more than a conqueror.”
You anoint my head with oil
That’s about consecration! “Lord, You have called me and chose me to bear much fruit.”
My cup runs over
That’s about abundance! “Lord, You have lavished on me blessings after blessings.”
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
That’s about favor! “Lord, Your kindness and compassion track me.”
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
That’s about sanctuary! “Lord, You have made me Your temple, Your dwelling place—a house of prayer.”
That’s about eternity! Both now and forever!
Now picture what the Lord is trying to do in your life. Using our sanctified imagination to picture what the words describe is one of the ways we can release the power of God’s Word into our hearts and lives. It is especially helpful to do this with Bible passages we know well, such as the 23rd Psalm. Familiarity with a passage can dull our senses to both the beauty and the meaning of God’s Word. Not only can our imagination free the power of God’s Word, but God’s Word can cleanse our imagination and fill it with holy truth.
Here I have modeled how to meditate on the 23rd Psalm in a way that allows its truth to seep deep into our hearts:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Picture: the Good Shepherd who was willing to die for you. He provided for your salvation as well as for your provisions, guidance, protection, and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.
Picture: green pastures and quiet waters that heal and restore your soul. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Picture: the gift of righteousness that gives you the ability to stand in the presence of God, reign in life, and receive the Lord’s favor and guidance (Romans 5:17).
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.
Picture: a canyon that casts the shadow of death. A shadow cannot hurt or destroy you. It may look dark, but light will overwhelm it. When you face pain, suffering, disease, injury, or death—know that the Lord will not leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Your rod and staff, they comfort me.
Picture: a rod as a heavy club used to kill predators, and the staff as a long pole with a crook on one end that is used to round up the sheep and to guide them along. The rod is for discipline and will kill the enemies of fear, doubt, and guilt. The staff is for support to guide you safely through life. Both are for your well-being (Romans 8:31).
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Picture: a battle going on all around you. Despite the impending danger of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the Lord spreads out a banquet table and serves you right in front of your enemies (Romans 8:37).
You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Picture: yourself being anointed as a king, priest, or prophet. The anointing oil of the Holy Spirit is overflowing into your life and ministry. The fragrant perfume of the oil of anointing will unlock doors of opportunities (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 2:14).
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
Picture: two dogs, loving and faithful, who follow you everywhere you go. Their names are Goodness and Mercy. You can count on God’s goodness and mercy every step of the way (Isaiah 63:7).
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord.
Picture: yourself, like David, praising the Lord in the temple. Now see yourself as the Lord’s temple with Christ’s dwelling presence in you. Hear the Lord ask you, “Whose life will you change, and what circumstances will you influence today with your prayers?”
Picture: your greatest blessing, living in the Lord’s presence. “And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent” (John 17:3 ab).
God is eternal. Only what is in Him is forever and endless. Sam Shoemaker said it well: “Eternal life does not begin with death; it begins with faith.”
You have only one life, it will soon pass; only what you have in Christ will last.
To My Prayer Partners
Thank you for your prayers and support as I proclaim the life-changing gospel to the homeless and needy as chaplain at the Gospel Mission, and mentor pastors and churches.
Your Brother in Christ,
John David Hicks