Praying a Penitential Psalm

“The Psalms express everything we are capable of experiencing: exuberant praise and reverent meditation, but also questioning, doubt, victimization, lament, pain, penitence, and repentance. Most of them, two-thirds in fact, are prayed by men and women in trouble of one kind or another. Of these the early Christian  community early on designated seven of them as ‘penitential,’ prayers prayed out of a sense of need and inadequacy. These are prayers prayed by those who ‘don’t have it all together,’ prayers prayed out of shame and sorrow for sin.” (Eugene Peterson, The Way of Jesus).

Here is a way to pray  when guilt or shame crowd your soul: 

  • Choose one of the following penitential Psalms: 6, 32, 51, 102, 130, 143
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what you need to hear.
  • Read the Psalm all the way through with a listening spirit.
  • Then read more slowly, highlighting or underlining any word or phrase that seems to pop out.
  • Reflect on a word or phrase that pops out at you.  Ask, “How are you revealing yourself to me.  What am I to see and understand?”
  • Pray about what you have learned – express your gratitude, confession, lament, relief or praise.
  • Think about how you are being called to obey. How is this encounter with God changing you?

Continue your daily activities (or sleep peacefully) knowing that God understands and forgives.

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