The final penitential psalm, Psalm 143, takes us to the foot of the cross on Good Friday.
The psalmist — perhaps David, on the run from his own son Absolom — has reached the end of his rope. His “spirit faints,” his heart is “appalled” (vs 4). He feels trapped and abandoned even by God, on the verge of death.
Sitting in darkness, crushed to the ground, the psalmist turns to the Lord. My own temptation is to wallow in depression and doubt, to sink further into the pit. That’s why I love praying the psalms. Meditating on those first 4 verses, I find I relate. I enter into the suffering, sink low in my soul. Then verses 5-6 snap me out of it.
They give us a recipe for a changed heart:
- I remember the days of old
- I meditate on all that thou hast done;
- I muse on what thy hands have wrought.
- I stretch out my hands to thee;
- My soul thirsts for thee like a parched land.
Do you see how his attention moves? From being crushed in darkness, eyes on the ground and the pit – to recalling God’s past goodness and faithfulness – to meditating on those things – to stretching upward, every fiber of his being seeking help from the Lord. Instead of drinking the dust, his mouth is now open to the source of living water.
Remember. Meditate. Muse. Stretch out. Thirst.
Today, Good Friday:
- I remember what God did to solve our problems. He took our sins, our pain, our suffering on himself.
- I meditate on what that meant. When the wave of death rolled in, he bowed his head, dove under it.
- I muse on the result. He allowed it to crush him – then rose triumphant on the other side.
- I choose to stretch out. To lift my eyes from my sins and troubles and put them on God. I remember what he has done and stretch my hands up toward the cross.
- I thirst for you, O God! As your Son thirsted on the cross.
In your death, deliver me O Lord. Take my pains, my sins, and let me rise with you to life!
Without a death – there can be no resurrection.
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To incorporate lectio divina into your prayer and better recognize where you have sinned, express your sorrow, and ask forgiveness:
Pray: Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and show me mercy, for I am a sinner before Thee.
Read Psalm 143 all the way through several times. At least one time, read it out loud.
Reflect on the same psalm: read it slowly, lingering where your heart draws you.
Consider these questions, writing your answers in a journal if desired:
- What stands out to you in this Psalm?
- What do you hear God saying to you, personally?
Respond: What will you do about what you have heard? Respond to God in prayer.
Rest in his presence.
Close: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
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2016 update: Set aside ten minutes a day during Lent for a “spiritual cleanse” using my new journal based on these posts, Create in Me a Clean Heart: 10 Minutes a Day in the Penitential Psalms, available in paperback and on Kindle.