I shared with my spiritual director that I was finding that some of the Psalms resonated in a new way with my heart. She suggested that I go a step beyond my reading and reflection. She advised me to re-write certain Psalms in my words in order to express personal emotions of anguish, anger, joy, and gratitude. Over the past weeks I have tried to incorporate this spiritual discipline into my times of contemplation.
My approach is guided by a few principles:
- Find a quiet time with a good pen and pieces of paper.
- Select a Psalm that speaks to me.
- Identify the main emotion of the Psalmist (e.g., fear, despair, confidence, happiness).
- Underline the key verse or phrase that connects with my heart.
- Allow myself the freedom to change the order and flow of ideas in the Psalm. I do not feel obligated to include every phrase of the text in my personalized version.
- Express my faith and vulnerabilities as boldly as the writer of the Psalm. I try to reach into my heart.
- Read it aloud and revise several times. Then offer it to God as a prayer and a poem.
I wrote a personal version of this Psalm while praying for hungry people in South Sudan and preparing to speak about them at a fundraising banquet.
We long to hear your voice.
People are crying out to you
Pleading for action.
How can you look down detached and distant
From the violence and hunger in South Sudan
And the broken lives on the streets of Winnipeg?
I can theologize with the best of them.
I can explain free will
And the nature of evil (at least on a theoretical basis).
But here on earth
Your enemies craft plans
Against innocent people.
Nothing can stop them.
Some of us pray from our protected cloisters.
Others are crying out
From refugee camps.
From bombed out buildings.
From hospitals that treat the wounded.
From homes without food.
You have no obligation to listen to our prayers
Uttered in comfort.
But would you listen to the victims?
Would you act on their behalf?
Take these men of violence
The authors of war and destruction,
Reduce them to whirling dust
And straw before the desert wind.
With a raging wildfire
Destroy their armed villas,
Their offshore bank accounts,
And even the memories of their deeds.
Terrify them with the hurricane
Of your judgement.
Let them be put to shame
And die in disgrace.
We your people need to know
That the God of justice and mercy
Rules over all the earth.