O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O Lord —how long?
Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
Reflection – It is Monday Psalter time again, and this one is a doozy. Hopefully your Monday or your life is not quite in this state; if it is, I am most sincerely sorry, and wish you better times soon.
But this is a common type of psalm, the psalm of lamentation in time of sorrow and trouble. We don’t really know too much about the psalmists and their lives, what they went through, what their particular sufferings were. This one is surtitled ‘Prayer for recovery from grave illness’, and it certainly fits that situation.
I suppose it also fits a few other situations one could think of: being trapped on a mountain without food and water by fanatical militants; being shelled continuously and not knowing if today is the day you or your children will be killed by one of the bombs; having troops amassing on your border and bracing for what seems like certain war; being a refugee, walking out of poverty and peril into an uncertain future; being the victim of a campaign of terror, kidnapping, and violence; being in the epicenter of a virulent plague.
In other words, we may well look at this psalm and feel very strange praying it, feel that it does not really express our situation very well at all. But it fits the situation of so many people in the headlines today precisely, people in Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Central America, Nigeria, Liberia. On and on and on – the people shaking with terror, weary with moaning, and wasting away with grief number in the tens of millions in these perilous days.
This brings out strongly the reality that we do not simply pray the psalms as individuals reflecting on our own situation and needs. The psalms are indeed personal prayer, but are also the communal prayer, first of the Jewish people, and then of the Christian people, the Body of Christ. And so yes, I am shaking with terror and flooding my bed with tears—not I, Denis Lemieux (really, my life is so very beautiful and blessed), but I as a member of Christ’s body, one with my brothers and sisters in these horrible situations.
And I can offer this prayer for them—they may not be able to make this prayer, or can only pray the first part, the words of lamentation and sorrow. The prayer follows through to a deep statement of faith, that the Lord hears the cries of his people, and that this present suffering is not the end of the story for them or for those who are oppressing them, either. And we need to pray those words in these difficult times in the world, for our own sake and for those who are in these terrible places and situations.
The psalms are deeply real, deeply rooted in every aspect of the human condition. Great joy and delight and beauty, but also great suffering and grief and horror. All of it we bring before God in the praying of the psalms; all of it is met by God and in this meeting there is new hope, new strength, consolation, deliverance.
Nothing is left outside of prayer and outside of the work of God. Nothing is left unredeemed, nothing is beyond His love and His power to save. Everything is brought into the mercy of God; He hears everything, loves everyone, and will act in time and in eternity to bring all His suffering children to a good end. This is the faith of Psalm 6, and in praying it, we come to share it.