The Psalms (or Songs) of Ascents, are a set of Psalms that come in the second half of the Psalter (Psalms 120 – 134). They are traditionally associated with pilgrims making the journey to Jerusalem for one of the great festivals in the Temple. Like the other Psalms, they cover the whole range of human emotions as they are brought to God — from joy and thankfulness to the depths of grief. 

Christians see the Psalms as the prayers of Jesus. In his earthly ministry, Jesus would have made this same journey to Jerusalem many times, culminating of course in the events of the Passion, which took place around the festival of Passover. And like many other Psalms, the Psalms of Ascents are shot through with prophecies of Jesus, just as Jesus himself taught that everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).

Likewise the Church takes up these same words of praise and lament (c.f. Acts 4:25 – 31). So they are also the prayers of Jesus in that they are the prayers of his people, which Jesus brings before the Father as our mediator and advocate. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, we are also to heed the same warnings as those who first prayed the Psalms (Hebrews 4:7 – 11), and remember that we, like them, are pilgrims towards a heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13 – 16, 40 – 41). 

During the election campaign, we will be using some of these Psalms of Ascents to help guide our prayers. As our current political landscape prompts very different reactions in our churches, we can use these Psalms to pray for ourselves, our fellow believers, and for our country. These Psalms will also help us to fix our eyes on Jesus”, particularly as this election takes place in the run-up to Christmas. Finally, they will also remind us of the city we seek, without foundation, whose architect and builder is God” – even as we cast our votes in whatever city or constituency in which he has placed us. Please join us in prayer over the coming weeks!