Prayer, Peace, and Pestilence: Psalm 91 and Today

Lately, a specific Bible passage has been popping up frequently for me. A note from a college friend, a post in a Facebook group, and a random opening of my Bible have all brought my attention to Psalm 91. I’ll be honest, the first couple of times I noticed people referencing it, I ignored it. I thought I’d look at it later; after all, there was too much to worry about for me to open my Bible. (Isn’t that always the excuse?)

But last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning and just wide awake. I finally decided that I had the time to read my Bible. And I knew exactly where I should turn to: Psalm 91.

It’s easy to see why this Psalm is so popular right now. It’s one of those pieces of Scripture that seems to speak directly to us today and now. The fact that it was written thousands of years ago somehow makes it feel more impressive and helpful. But I also believe it is a passage that could be easily misinterpreted. As I do with all Scripture, I felt the need to dig deeper into what it actually was saying.

If you haven’t already, take a moment now to read Psalm 91 before we dive in.

God as Our Protection

From the first two verses, it’s easy to understand why people are clinging to this psalm. A lot of us are under shelter-in-place orders, meaning that for our safety, we are staying at home. But it seems like things are getting more and more fragile every day. So where do we really shelter in place for our protection? We abide in our God, who is a shelter. We rest under the comforting shadow of the Lord. We find safety with a Savior who is our refuge and our mighty fortress.

These first few sentences of Psalm 91 remind us that God has infinite power over everything, including the threats we face today.

God’s Power over the Many Perils of Life

As we continue on in the psalm through verses 3–13, we see that in this life, we will have troubles. The devil will attack suddenly and with all he’s got. We see that deadly pestilence is one of the ways he attacks us. I had barely, if ever, heard the word pestilence before COVID-19 took hold of the world. But the word is used around forty-six times in the Bible. It can seem frightening that God, who is perfectly righteous, allows deadly disease. But we see in these verses that, as The Lutheran Study Bible says in the notes for Psalm 91:5–6, “God’s security surrounds us whenever danger comes.” We see in Psalm 91 that the devil can cause fear, but that the Lord protects us.

Now, this isn’t saying that we won’t get a disease or that we won’t be affected by troubles. We have a God who works everything for good (Romans 8:28), but as Christians, we are promised troubles. And we are also promised and given a Savior, who overcomes all troubles (John 16:33).  

God’s Promises for Those Who Trust in Him

Moving onward to the end of Psalm 91, we are reminded and see that God is the rescuer through Jesus. God is the provider of all we need, and He hears us in prayer. During this uncertain time, I have noticed a bigger call for prayer. I have noticed that prayer has been on the forefront of people’s minds, especially within the Christian culture. And what I’ve seen isn’t a call to prayer for a specific purpose, but a call to pray earnestly. We pray to express trust in the Lord, and as we pray, that trust is strengthened.

As we move toward deeper trust in God, we remind ourselves that His promises are fulfilled in Jesus. It is in Jesus that we see that God is overwhelmingly victorious. We see that the story doesn’t end with Jesus in the grave but with Jesus alive as King over all.

In Psalm 91, we see an urge to seek the Lord when the world seems frightening. God does not promise that we won’t be affected by the darkness and peril of a sinful world, but He does promise us safety and victory in Jesus Christ. We rest in the knowledge of the resurrection, and we trust God, knowing that He has a plan to work this for good.

I know why this psalm has been floating around my sphere of Christianity. It is a comforting and strong reminder of what faith in Christ promises us. On the surface, the text may seem to say that God guarantees us earthly protection from these specific events if we just believe and pray hard enough. Instead, what it reminds us of is much stronger, and it’s eternal. Praise be to Christ that we can be assured of ultimate victory over every evil.

The Psalms give us comfort, peace, and thankfulness, as well as a way to express sadness and anger at God’s enemies.

Read the Psalms with Commentary from Luther 

Picture of Adele Werner
Written by

Adele Werner

Adele Werner is a pastor’s wife, a mother, a third-generation Yooper, and a former content marketing specialist for Concordia Publishing House. Devoted to Jesus, she has a passion for serving others and sharing the Gospel. She is an alumna of the University of Michigan, where she majored in media and communication studies, minored in writing, and served in multiple ministries. As an avid consumer and creator of all content, she can often be found watching movies categorized as “Oscar-bait,” listening to podcasts, or reading a good book.

Subscribe to all CPH Blog topics (Worship, Read, Study, Teach, and Serve)