I've been excited to get to Psalm 5, because it's the first one that's referenced in the Hymnal. So, the first thing I did was to go look up which hymn uses it: Did You Think To Pray. And I found this beautiful acapella version, which even comes with a bonus verse that I wasn't familiar with:
When you met with great temptation, did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit, did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?
Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark and dreary,
Don't forget to pray.
It's good to be reminded that "prayer is the source of comfort, relief, and protection, willingly granted by our loving, compassionate Heavenly Father. (Richard G. Scott, Apr 2007)" The Psalmist lays out two contrasting paths: the path of wickedness, which leads to destruction, and the path of humility and righteousness, which leads to the temple and to joy. Prayer seems to be the key that turns us from the one path to the other.
I submit that a return to the old pattern of prayer, family prayer in the homes of the people, is one of the basic medications that would check the dread disease that is eroding the character of our society. We could not expect a miracle in a day, but in a generation we would have a miracle.
A generation or two ago, family prayer in the homes of Christian people throughout the world was as much a part of the day’s activity as was eating. As that practice has diminished, the moral decay discussed by the Apostle Paul has ensued.
-Gordon B. Hinckley, Feb 1991
Although it would take a great deal of time to see the effect upon the whole society, I do not believe that it would take that long for families and individuals to see the impact on a small scale. I know that, when I am doing well with my prayers, my inner peace becomes far more stable, in spite of what may be happening in the world around me.
One thing that stands out to me, looking at all this, is the way that we are able to choose either of the two paths. I intend to choose joy. Joy is the result of choosing God's way -- the way of prayer. The world can be a very dark place, but we are able to choose joy, even in the dark times.
"But let all that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful. (vs. 11)"
This idea of joy, joy strong enough to penetrate to our core, even in dark, hard times really grabbed my attention, and I spent quite a while studying it. One of the first things I did was browse through the Topical Guide's entry on Joy. There's a lot in there; this list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface, particularly not if you start branching out into related topics, such as Gladness or Peace. Truly our Father's plan is a Plan of Happiness! Here are a few of the passages that stood out to me:
Psalm 30:5 (especially the JST footnote)
3 John 1:4
1 Nephi 11:21-23
Along with all the passages of scripture about joy, there is a wealth of talks that about the topic, and that touch on it in their treatment of other gospel principles. I am convinced that to do an exhaustive study on the topic would take at least as long as going through all the Psalms is going to take me. There's just that much. These were some of the highlights from the material I browsed through:
"Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described President Benson as a “careful watcher of events, [who] maintains a certain buoyancy and cheerfulness we would do well to watch. Such buoyancy,” Elder Maxwell said, “comes not from ignoring enveloping events, but from noticing these and yet looking beyond them to promises having to do with how the kingdom will finally prevail.”
-Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, 70
It's an important reminder to keep perspective - perspective which has been easier for me to hang onto since I started studying the Psalms. It sometimes looks dark in our world, but the outcome is predetermined; Good wins in the end. However, the question remains: where will we stand?
"But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven--they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement. They will surely feel God’s resplendent Spirit. They will taste the indescribable joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014 Conference
One way we experience the miracle of the Savior's Atonement is through repentance. I had never considered that there might be a connection between repentance and joy, but now that someone has pointed it out to me, it makes perfect sense. It fits. They fit beautifully.
"Establish an attitude of ongoing, happy, joyful repentance by making it your lifestyle of choice."
-By Elder Jörg Klebingat, of the Seventy, October Conference 2014
Our joy in Christ comes because He offers us the chance to repent and return. And repentance leads directly to deep and abiding joy. What a gift.