Psalm 139: A Prayer for Life and More by Martina Casey

Each year the Catholic Church in the United States dedicates the month of October to a special time of prayer and fasting for the protection of all human life from conception to natural death. In honor of this year’s October “Respect Life Month” below is psalm 139 and a reflection on its pro-life message.

Psalm 139

For the leader. A psalm of David.


LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;*a

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;

with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me

and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

far too lofty for me to reach.b

Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.c

If I take the wings of dawn*

and dwell beyond the sea,*

Even there your hand guides me,

your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,

and night shall be my light”*

Darkness is not dark for you,

and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.d

To read the rest of the psalm click here

In light of October being Respect Life Month, here are four lessons about life and God from the Pro-Life Psalm.

  1. You mattered long before you were a single cell“Your eyes saw my unformed body,all the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be”(Psalm 139:16). As Catholics, we know this already. Life doesn’t begin at birth or another arbitrary time determined by a disorderly society that doesn’t value the least among us. Life begins at conception. God loved us before our bodies were formed; in fact, He loved us into our bodies. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 reminds us that our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”If we truly believe that everybody matters, then every body, regardless of its gestational stage, matters too.
  2. The Lord’s omnipresence makes it impossible to hide. Not limited by time, He is in the future, present and past. The Psalmist asks “Where can I go from your Spirit?” (Psalm 139:7). In Revelation 20:12 we are reminded that our every thought, word, and deed is recorded; “and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened…The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
  3. We can’t comprehend the infinite with a finite mind“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”(Psalm 139:6). You may be familiar with the legend of St. Augustine of Hippo and the young boy trying to empty the ocean into a small hole with a seashell. St. Augustine’s reminder that his task was an impossible one was met with an equally snarky response from the boy; ‘just as impossible as your futile task of trying to understand the Holy Trinity.’ There are concepts, ideas, ideologies, even dogmas that may be beyond our capacity to understand. That’s okay because even the holiest or brightest among us are nothing but a speck of the Great Intelligence.
  4. God loves a self-reflecting soul“See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”(Psalm 139:24). Drawing again on the wisdom of St. Augustine, “Grant Lord, that I may know myself and know Thee.” A search towards God requires a mind that is willing to unlearn and relearn. It’s what Jesus talks about in John 3:1-15 when He tells Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

May we always praise the Lord, who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. May we keep our hearts open to loving Him by loving all of His creation, especially the least among us — all of whom are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14).​

If you’d like to learn more about the Church’s teaching on the beauty of life, click here to register for our 13 week course! God Bless.






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