Lord, you keep constant watch over my soul, just like a shepherd diligently protects his sheep from any danger (verse 1). You know my physical needs, that I need nourishment and rest, and so you lead me to where I can find them. As long as I follow after you, I shall never be in need.(2) And yet, Lord you know that I am more than just a physical body; that I need spiritual nourishment as well. And so as I follow your leading, you take me to the still waters, which is Christ, who gives me living water. By Him is my soul revived. (3a)
Lord, if you weren’t leading me, I would have no idea of how to live righteously and would constantly find myself on the wrong path. But with you ahead of me, I learn how live justly and righteously. You show me the right way, not so I can boast to others and make them notice how wise I am. No—for your name’s sake you lead me. When others see how you care for me and teach me, they will know what a righteous God you and that you are a Person to be feared. (3b)
But in this world, life is not always lying down in a peaceful pasture! Sometimes, my chief enemy death casts such a formidable shadow over my life that I can scarcely remember what it was like to dwell in the pleasantness of a quiet green meadow. All is dark and I cannot see my way out of here. It is then that I stay closest to you. As I do, I find that I am not at all afraid of the darkness. All I have to do is look at you, and my fear melts away. I see your strength and your authority and that gives me comfort. (4)
You are such a strong protector that I can even sit down peacefully to eat a feast that you prepared for me when enemies are lurking, and enjoy the food. You lavish so many blessings on me, that I can’t possibly contain them all. (5)
One thing I am certain about: that no matter what happens to me, your goodness and mercy will be my constant companions for the rest of my life. Your presence will sustain me through any circumstance and therefore I can look forward to your blessings in every day that you give me for the rest of my life. In fact, I will never be taken from your presence but will dwell with you both in this life and in the life to come. (6)
NOTE: The point of the exercise is not to “improve” upon the text. This, of course, is not possible, as the ultimate author of scripture, God, stated it exactly how He wanted it. But instead, the point is to make the text personal. It is not meant to be another translation or paraphrase, but a prayer based on the thoughts found in scripture. If you try this, I suggest you not read any commentaries or study notes but see how much you can get out of it yourself first. Then if you are really struggling with a verse, you could refer to a commentary. I first wrote verse 5 two different ways and couldn’t decide which one was correct. I then went to a commentary and that helped me figure it out. It’s a good discipline to discover scripture for ourselves.