We can live in fullness of life in the presence of the risen Christ today — that’s the invitation of the Shepherd Psalm.

But it begins with an audacious claim: “The Lord is my shepherd, he gives me life without lack.” 

Life without lack? You might question that. My life is full of lack — lack of resources, lack of health, lack of justice, lack of opportunity, lack of harmony in relationships, lack of peace…

It seems the Psalmist is not living in the real world, but some ethereal utopian ideal that doesn’t hold true. Actually, Dallas rebuts, “He is living in the most real world, a world where Yahweh is present and available and actively involved in the lives of those who know and trust him” (Life Without Lack, p. 24).

One time when I was talking with Dallas Willard and I showed him my Psalms Prayerbook. As he thumbed through the pages of the Psalms and my added notes, prayers, and pictures he commented on the Shepherd Psalm: “Psalm 23 covers the whole of the spiritual life in God’s kingdom. It’s all there — except for the essential understanding of the historical Jesus.” 

Another time he shared, “When you pray Psalm 23 you find that Someone is there waiting for you to greet you and guide you.”

That’s why Dallas personally meditated on the Shepherd Psalm everyday. As “the Living Word” it provides an “intensive internalization of the kingdom” and establishes “good epidermal responses of thought, feeling, and action” so we can be integrated “into the flow of God’s eternal reign.” (The Divine Conspiracy, p. 362)

At the opening of Life Without Lack he focuses on Psalm 23 and shares his distinctive reflections, which I’ve compiled and condensed into “Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer”. (Life Without Lack, pp. xvii-xx)

Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have life without lack.
In his green pastures I’ve eaten my fill so I lie down.
At his still waters my thirst is satisfied.

He heals and reintegrates my broken depths in his eternal life
so I can walk in paths of righteousness on his behalf.
Even though I go through loss, hunger, disease, aging, and death I will fear no evil because you Jesus are with me.
Your strong rod and protective staff put me at liberty.

Your abundant provision is a feast for me so I’m happy to share with my enemies.
You give me hot showers and warm fluffy towels, joyful experiences and deep relationships, to make me feel clean, special, and powerful.
My cup runs over so I can be generous without ever running out. 

Surely this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be
Because I dwell and abide with God in the fullness of his life in the Kingdom of the Heavens forever. 

That’s life without lack!

My Meditation on Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer

I found myself lingering on and luxuriating in each phrase of Dallas’ version of Psalm 23. Then I added some of my own reflections. I invite you to take a few minutes and go deeper in the Shepherd Psalm with me. 

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have life without lack.

Through Jesus I bring my whole life into God’s kingdom and enjoy a with-God life. With the Church’s first Apostle we’re coming to Christ as our Soul Shepherd our Rock Foundation for daily life (Matthew 16:16-18). 

In his green pastures I’ve eaten my fill so I lie down. 

After grazing on his grace pastures, I’m a full sheep so I relax and take a nap. Thus he “makes me” to lie down. It’s the open arms of Jesus, “Come to me and find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

At his still waters my thirst is satisfied. 

His spring of living waters so refreshes and nourishes me that I’m not thirsty for anything in this world. In other words, we thrill to pray with the Psalmist, “Earth has nothing I desire besides you Lord” (Psalm 73:25).

He heals and reintegrates my broken depths in his eternal life.

He’s restoring my soul by uniting his supernatural heavenly life my with my natural earthly life. “She reached out and touched Jesus’ cloak and she was healed” (Matthew 9:20-22). 

So I can walk in paths of righteousness on his behalf. 

Good Shepherd guides me and forms me so that it becomes easy and routine for me to do what’s right and kind. “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Even though I go through loss, hunger, disease, aging, and death I will fear no evil because you Jesus are with me. 

Yes, it’s true. My confidence in God soars above my dark valleys because the risen Christ is in my midst holding my hand, lifting up my eyes and heart to the heavens, and giving me great joy and courage in my trials. As Jesus assured us, “Fear not little flock. Your Father is pleased to welcome you into his kingdom, even now” (Luke 12:32).

Your strong rod and protective staff put me at liberty. 

Thank you Lord, in your tenderness and power you care for me and put me at ease. God’s mighty arm, reaches down from the heavens to bring you deliverance and victory (Exodus 6:6). 

Your abundant provision is a feast for me so I’m happy to share with my enemies. 

At your table you prepare a delicious meal for me and when I see my enemies standing there hungry I pull up a chair for them. As the Apostle of Grace says, “Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you… Bless those who curse you” (Colossians 3:13, Luke 6:28).

You give me hot showers and warm fluffy towels, joyful experiences and deep relationships, to make me feel clean, special, and powerful. 

That’s “He anoints my Head with oil”! Good Shepherd’s fragrant oil is such a blessing. It cleans me up, heals my hurts,  and anoints me for ministry. The promise of the Bible is when we are weak under Christ then God’s power works wonders in us and through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). 

My cup runs over so I can be generous without ever running out. 

I’m living and doing my work in the overflow of God’s love that streams, surges, and splashes, from my soul to the people around me. As the Beloved Disciple of Jesus reminds us, “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Surely this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be because I dwell and abide with God in the fullness of his life in the Kingdom of the Heavens forever. 

My Shepherd who is goodness and mercy is following me day-by-day. By staying in Jesus’ easy yoke in every situation, I’m walking freely and lightly on this earth and flourishing in the Father’s world forever! (Matthew 11:30, John 8:35, 38)

Sharing Soul Shepherding With Others

One of the great joys of life is sharing our experiences of God’s presence with our friends or small group. To bless you in your devotions and ministry to others we have a library with hundreds of free Scripture meditation guides, including “Life Without Lack: A Meditation on Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer”. This follows the format of our popular Lectio Divina Guides.

Alternatively, you can change up the three readings as suggested below. After each reading leave a space of a few minutes for quiet reflection. Listen for any thoughts or feelings that come to you related to Psalm 23 or your life today. You may want to journal. After the third reading share your experience with your friend or small group. 

1st Reading: Psalm 23 in your favorite translation. 

2nd Reading: “Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer” (near the top of this article).

3rd Reading: “My Meditation on Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer” (my reflections in the last half of this article). 

Join Bill & Kristi through a Selah form of our “Soul Talks” podcast!
 “Life Without Lack: Psalm 23”

 

2 responses to “Life Without Lack: Dallas Willard’s Psalm 23 Prayer

  • Thank you, this is wonderful!
    I love Dallas’s teaching to the degree that I can understand them, and your additions to his prayer are helpful to me.

    • Dan, We are so glad this resource on Dallas Willard’s teachings was helpful! Please check out our other postings about his teachings here.

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