Psalms for Holy Week

Phaedra Taylor, "Lent 2" (encaustic, thread, shellac, and square head nails, 2011)

The following prayers are taken from resources that I found helpful in the writing of my book on the psalms, Open & Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide for Life (Thomas Nelson: 2020). In some cases, they represent fresh and imaginative translations of the psalms. In other cases, they represent a psalm-like poem that draws inspiration from particular psalms or from the spirit of the Psalter as a whole.

All of them show us in some manner what it means to pray to God from the heart, or perhaps more accurately "out of the depths," de profundis, as Psalm 130:1 puts it, which is language that has been redeployed by artists such as Arvo Pärt, Franz Liszt, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, Charles Baudelaire, and Federico García Lorca. I offer this "sampler" of prayers as an aid to our personal and corporate practices of prayer during Holy Week.

HEAR OUR CRY
God our Creator,
God most high,
God immortal,
Hear our cry.

God all-merciful,
God most high,
God all-powerful,
Hear our cry.

God invisible,
God most high,
God ever present,
Hear our cry.

(David Adam, Music of the Heart: New Psalms in the Celtic Tradition, 67)

LAMENT PSALM FIVE
O God, find me!
I am lost
in the valley of grief,
and I cannot see my way out.

My friends leave baskets of balm
at my feet,
but I cannot bend to touch
the healing
to my heart.
They call me to leave
this valley,
but I cannot follow
the faint sound
of their voices.
They sing their songs
of love,
but the words fade
and vanish in the wind.
They knock,
but I cannot find the door.
They shout to me,
but I cannot find the voice
to answer.

O God, find me!
Come into this valley
and find me!
Bring me out of this land
of weeping.
O you to whom I belong,
find me!
I will wait here,
for you have never failed
to come to me.
I will wait here,
for you have always been faithful.
I will wait here,
for you are my God,
and you have promised
that you counted the hairs on my head.

(Ann Weems, Psalms of Lament, 11-12)

PSALM 32
Blessed are the man and woman when forgiven
their willful sin, when God gives them a pardon.
Blessed are the young and old whose guilty wrong
the LORD removes because their hearts come clean.
Your hand brought pain, LORD; day and night I suffered,
so long as I would not confess my evil.
Now that my heart no longer hides its sin,
You lift my guilt away and make me free.

Let every sinful saint who would be rescued
before the flood, repent and plead forgiveness.
We know the wicked harden in their hurts,
but you keep safe those, LORD, who trust in you.
You are our hiding place and certain wisdom!
You will deliver us from stubborn passions.
Let us be joyful as forgiven folk!
Laugh with the LORD: God's grace brings jubilee.

(Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God's Psalms, 53)

PSALM 113: THE ENERGY OF COMPASSION
As the light of dawn struggles through the gloom,
as the sun filters through the morning haze,
as the weary stretch into another day,

As the noonday sun burns and does not relent,
as the pressure mounts on the brain,
as the elderly nod through the afternoon,

As the shadows lengthen and the day declines,
as the air cools around the homeless,
as a night of grieving looms,

As we grow angry at the senseless violence,
as we cradle the wounded in our arms,
as we patiently repair the damage,

As the sloucher straightens his back,
as the poor rise up from the scrapheap,
as the barren at last conceive,

As Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel give birth,
as Ruth follows Naomi to a new home,
as Rahab and Tamar find their place in the story,

As we seek to deepen our trust,
as we glimpse the power of compassion,
as we see the divine in the outcast,

As we remember the tales of our ancestors,
as we recall the moments of freedom,
as we renew our strength at its source,

As the Spirit of awe overtakes us,
as the depths of compassion overwhelm us,
as the glory and splendor overshadows us,

As we worship at all times, in all places,
as we lovingly relish the Name,
as the people sing with one voice.

Refrain: Alleluia! We dare to give praise to God!

(Jim Cotter, Psalms for a Pilgrim People, 245-246)

PSALM 13
How long, my Beloved?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your
face from me?
How long must I bear this pain
in my soul,
and live with sorrow
all the day?
How long will fear rule my heart?

Notice my heart and answer me,
O my Beloved;
enlighten me, lest I walk as
one dead to life;
Lest my ego fears say,
"We have won the day;"
Lest they rejoice in their strength.

As I trust in your steadfast
Love;
my heart will rejoice,
for in You is freedom.
I shall sing to the Beloved,
who has answered my prayers
a thousand fold!
Come, O Beloved, make your home
in my heart.

(Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, 17)

PSALM 133
How wonderful it is, how pleasant,
to be healed of the corrosive disease of racism and separation;
and to live as God's people together in harmony.
The Spirit of the Lord will then fill the hearts
and the minds of all the people.
Nobody will be judged any more on the basis of race or colour;
but all will be ruled with justice and integrity.

The war will end and the people together will rebuild the country.
There will be no reference to the colour of the skin,
for all will be regarded as the people of God,
the people he created in his image.
And this will be the beginning of what the Lord has promised--
the life that never ends.

(Zephania Kameeta, Why O Lord? Psalms and Sermons from Namibia, 47)

PSALM 22:22-28
Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
    and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
    give glory, you sons of Jacob;
    adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
    never looked the other way
    when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
    he has been right there, listening.

Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
    in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”

From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

(Eugene Peterson, The Message)

PSALM 134: LATE
A scholar at his desk at midnight
Looked up from his book, beyond the lamplight,
Into a socked-in yard where gray wisps swirled
Between clotheslines, and said: Blessed be the creator
of this world.

(Laurance Wieder, Words to God's Music: A New Book of Psalms, 168)

PSALM 117: TO THE CHOIRMASTER
I convene the spirit of the song and the singer both.
Lord, we convene our best when we practice harmony.
Two-part harmony is the Lord and ourselves.
Three-part harmony is the Holy Trinity.
Four-part harmony is each Gospel together.

If there can be the billions of voices harmonious,
then the world may unwobble from its discord,
the celestial choirmaster can raise his baton
to synchronize the stars, the warm wind
through the bars of trees. Harmonized, sing us whole.

(Nicholas Samaras, American Psalm, World Psalm, 173)

PSALM 130 (131)
No se ensoberbece Señor mi corazón

Yo no quiero ser millonario
ni ser Líder
ni ser Primer Ministro

Ni aspiro a puestos públicos
ni corro detrás de las condecoraciones

yo no tengo propiedades ni libreta de cheques
y sin Seguros de Vida
estoy seguro
Como un niño dormido en los brazos de su madre...

Confíe Israel en el Señor
(y no en los líderes)

My heart does not become proud, oh Lord

I do not wish to be a millionaire
nor a Ruler
nor a Prime Minister

I do not aspire to public office
nor do I run after medals and badges

I own no properties, no checkbook
And without Life Insurance
I am secure
Like a child asleep in the arms of his mother...

Trust oh Israel in the Lord
(and not in the rulers of earth)

(Ernesto Cardenal, Salmos, 71, my translation from the original Spanish)

COME, RENEW US
Come, Lord, come to us.
Enter our darkness with your light,
Fill our emptiness with your presence,
Come, refresh, restore, renew us.
In our sadness, come as joy,
In our troubles, come as peace,
In our fearfulness, come as hope,
In our darkness, come as light,
In our frailty, come as strength,
In our loneliness, come as love,
Come refresh, restore, renews us.

(David Adam, Music of the Heart: New Psalms in the Celtic Tradition, 86)

AN EASTER DAY PRAYER
Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity. Amen.

(The Book of Common Prayer)

THREEFOLD PRAISE
Lord of the sunrise,
Dispeller of night,
Father of glory,
Giver of light.

Christ of healing,
Making me whole,
Christ redeemer,
Protect my soul.

Spirit of life,
Setting me free,
Spirit of power,
Full of glory.

Holy and blessed,
O glorious Three,
Honour and praise,
And worship from me.

(David Adam, Music of the Heart: New Psalms in the Celtic Tradition, 11)

Phaedra Taylor, "Lent 1" (2011)

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