Praying Your Personal Psalm

This suggestion for prayer comes from the old Loyola Hall website. It was penned by Edel McClean and grew out of her retreats for people with chronic illness.

Peter Purves Smith - The Pleading Butcher, 1948

The psalms have always been used in communal or liturgical ways but they also seem to evoke very intense feelings that can resonate powerfully with us as individuals. And all life and emotion is there! Ranting anger and hurt; joyful exultation; recrimination and remorse; trust and confidence. Often a psalm will carry the weight of moods that seem contradictory and confusing — just as we can seem to ourselves.

Some psalms are beautiful; some are clever; some are shocking in their venom. The biblical Psalms offer us a resource through which to express our deepest feelings: let one resonate and express what we need to get out before God. But sometimes borrowed words don’t feel enough: that can be the time to write our own psalm.
Writing Your Psalm
1) Take a moment to pay attention to yourself. Recognise if you’re tense or nervous; exhilarated or calm. Either way don’t judge yourself, just notice and let it be.

2) Begin to pour out whatever you feel on paper. Include how it feels to be you and how it feels to be in your current circumstance whatever that may be. Include how you feel towards God at the moment. Include what you need and want.

3) Try not to judge what you write. Don’t try to make it ‘good’ or poetic or tidy or acceptable. Don’t temper it. Try to let the truth out, without being afraid that this is irrational or something you shouldn’t feel or something you shouldn’t say to God. Try not to censor your emotions or language.

3) As you start to run out of words, include something of how it feels to have written all of this, and where you feel you are now.

4) The writing has already been prayer but you will probably want to pray your psalm again. Maybe immediately or maybe later. Pick a spot where you can use your psalm without interruption or embarrassment. The purpose isn’t to ‘make something happen’ or to achieve some resolution but to express yourself fully and honestly to God.

5) As you pray notice if God is hearing you and, if it feels right, give God some space to do God’s part: to join in, to respond, or just to listen. See if you can catch the tone of God’s voice, the quality of God’s presence.

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