Anatomy of the Soul - Prayer and Our Homesickness

A Prayer Guide

1. Read psalm 84 Aloud

2. A Guide to Understanding Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a prayer about how homesickness and happiness are bound together in the human soul. It shows us how the feeling of homesickness is actually the soul’s most reliable guide to finding true happiness. The three-fold repetition of the Hebrew word for true happiness (or blessedness), ashre, reveals how our homesickness leads us to true happiness. In praying our homesickness to God, we are reminded of where our true home is, we are given strength for the journey home and we are given glimpses of what home will be like. 

Happy are those… Who Know Where Home (Really) Is Psalm 84:4 says, “Happy are those who dwell in your house!” At the time this Psalm was written, this referred to the temple in Jerusalem. His house, his courts, his dwelling place all refer to the temple as the special place of God’s presence, protection and permanence. He says - that’s my true home – a place where God is in all his glory. The place where all my being is praising God continually! But he says, “I’m not there, so I’m not home!” Instead, he’s filled with intense longing and yearning for home. He feels spiritually and physically displaced. He’s homesick. The temple of the OT functioned as a reminder of where home really is for every person. Home is the place where God dwells with humanity in all his glory. In one sense, the whole biblical story is about where this home really is. Our home was Eden. Our home was lost because of sin. Our home came to earth in Jesus. Our home will one day be restored when Jesus makes all things new in the new creation.  Our homesickness is the memory of what we lost and a beacon of what awaits all those who trust in Jesus. 

Happy are those… Who Go on the Journey Home: Does this mean we are stuck in unhappiness until we get home to the new creation? No - besides those who are already home, there’s another group of people who discover true happiness. Verse 5 tells us who they are - “Happy are the people who hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84 is one of the “Psalms of Zion”. These Psalms are songs and prayers written for people who went on the actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year for the major feasts. Using the language of this actual pilgrimage the Psalmist is describing the spiritual journey – Happiness in this life is a matter of what our hearts are set on. Are they set on pilgrimage? Or on staying put and finding our home here and now?

Psalm 84 helps us makes sense of a paradox of the soul - the more our heart is set on happiness and home here, the less we will find them. The more our heart is set on the journey home to God, the more we will have true happiness on the journey. Everyone who wants to find their true home in God must go on this journey. This journey will pass through wilderness and tears (the Valley of Baca) but God promises to strengthen us and bring us all the way home (“each one will appear before God in Zion”).  

The prayer of verses 8-9 tell us how we can make it through the valleys. He doesn’t pray for himself – He prays for the king (the shield and anointed one of Israel). He knows that if the King is strong, the way home will be safe. He knows if the king has God’s favor, he’ll find God’s favor when he gets to the temple. The message of the gospel is that we have this kind of King. We have a king who makes a safe way for sinners to come home. We have a king who gives us his own favor with God. (John 14:1-6). When our hearts are set on following Him, we find a joy that is even deeper than the valleys.

Happy are those… Who Remember What Home Will Be Like– In verses 10-12, the Psalmist remembers nothing can even come close to comparing to his true home in God. Just one day there is better than 1,000 in his dream home here. Just a glimpse of home from the doorway is better than trying to find our true home anywhere apart from God. He’s remembering what home will be like to prevent him for putting his hope and happiness in anything less than God. Remembering who God is and where God is taking us strengthens us against idolizing our homes here. It prevents us from hoarding or hiding in our homes to be people who show others they way home. 

A Guide to Praying Psalm 84

Take time to reflect on your homesickness

  • In what ways do you identify a yearning and a longing for home in your own heart?

  • In what ways are you looking for happiness by finding and making your “dream” home here and now? How has this search for home left you disappointed or jaded?

Express your yearning and ache for home

  • Express your homesickness to God in prayer. Tell him how much you long, yearn and ache to be truly and finally home.

  • Praise and adore God for all the ways He is what we long for in a home.

    • Examples: You are our place of safety and acceptance. You are unchanging and permanent. You are everything I need to be content. 

Ask God for strength for the journey home

  • Confess ways your heart is set on building and finding your home and happiness in things other than God.

  • Describe any ways you feel like you are currently in a Valley of Baca (weeping). Cry out to God for strength to pass through this valley.

  • Consider and look to Jesus in prayer.

    • Thank Jesus for all the ways He is your perfect shield from anything that would keep you from making it home – from sin, self, death and evil.

    • Recount the truth that God’s face is turned toward us in favor and delight because of Jesus.

    • Read John 14:1-6 aloud and pray Jesus’ promises into your current struggles.

Remember What Home Will Be Like

  • Describe how much better heaven and the new creation will be than anything this world can offer us. Turn to Revelation 21-22 for imagery of the new creation.

  • Thank God he won’t withhold any (truly) good thing from those who trust in Him.

  • Ask God to help you use the home he’s given you here to offer others a taste of the better home to come.

  • Ask God to give you a heart to serve those who have no home here (homeless, refugee, widows/orphans).