When I set out to read the penitential psalms this Lent, I expected them to draw me into dust and ashes, into mourning for my sins. I still think that – but what a surprise to read the second one, Psalm 32, and find myself lifted into joy!
Here, then, is the reason for this penitential season: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (vs. 1); “At a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him” (vs. 6); “Be glad in The Lord,..shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (vs. 11).
This psalm of David encourages us to declare our sin, to confess it to God, to throw ourselves into his arms not for judgment but for deliverance. It’s not the only psalm to do this, but I love the way it teaches us to pray in the process. The first time you read Psalm 32, notice the way the audience shifts (especially in the RSV-CE): it is directed to you at the start; then as the psalmist gives an example from his own experience, he starts to speak to God. He goes back to you, then back to God again, until at the end he draws you into a mutual shout of praise. And the best part? In vss. 8-9, God breaks in and speaks to you, himself.
This is lectio divina in action, long before it was ever called that. The word proclaimed at the beginning is meditated on, drawn into the heart of the one praying and allowed to speak to his life experience. He reflects on this; responds to God; and the prayer becomes a conversation. It ends in the “rest” of God’s enveloping love and goes forth in the action of a call to others to rejoice.
Lectio divina: Read … Reflect … Respond … Rest. Then act!
Read Psalm 32 a lot this week. Read it every day if you can. Allow it to feed you, to draw you into God’s presence. And may it color your penitence with the hope of joy to come.
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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 32 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.
- Read the Introduction to this series here.
- Download Praying the Penitential Psalms-download here.
- Read more about lectio divina here.
© 2014 Sarah Christmyer
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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.
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