Personalizing the Psalms (Psalm 83)

Personalizing the Psalms (Psalm 83)

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.

 

Psalm 83

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.

 

God,

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?

 

Powerful God,

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.

 

Lord,

We your people need to know

That the God of justice and mercy

Rules over all the earth.

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