February 26, 2009

Psalms of the Old Testament

The following psalms taken from the Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures can be helpful examples for prayer and meditation during and after depression: Psalm 22, Psalm 23, Psalm 63, Psalm 142, and Psalm 143.


Psalm 22
For the leader; on ayyeleth ha-shahar A psalm of David.

My God, my God,
   why have You abandoned me;
   why so far from delivering me
   and from my anguished roaring?
My God,
   I cry by day—You answer not;
   by night, and have no respite.

But You are the Holy One,
   enthroned,
   the Praise of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
   they trusted, and You rescued them.
To You they cried out
   and they escaped;
   in You they trusted
   and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm, less than human;
   scorned by men, despised by people.
All who see me mock me;
   they curl their lips,
   they shake their heads.
Let him commit himself to the Lord;
   let Him rescue him,
   let Him save him,
   for He is pleased with him.
You drew me from the womb,
   made me secure at my mother's breast.
I became Your charge at birth;
   from my mother's womb You have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near,
   and there is none to help.
Many bulls surround me,
   mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths at me
   like tearing, roaring lions.
   My life ebbs away:
   all my bones are disjointed;
   my heart is like wax,
   melting within me;
   my vigor dries up like a shard;
   my tongue cleaves to my palate;
   You commit me to the dust of death.
Dogs surround me;
   a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
   like lions [they maul] my hands and feet.
I take the count of all my bones
   while they look on and gloat.
They divide my clothes among themselves,
   casting lots for my garments.

But You, O Lord, be not far off;
   my strength, hasten to my aid.
Save my life from the sword,
   my precious life from the clutches of a dog.
Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
   from the horns of wild oxen rescue me.
Then will I proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
   praise You in the congregation.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor Him!
Be in dread of Him, all you offspring of Israel!
For He did not scorn, He did not spurn
   the plea of the lowly;
   He did not hide His face from him;
   when he cried out to Him, He listened.
Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
   I pay my vows in the presence of His worshipers.
Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
   let all who seek the Lord praise Him.
Always be of good cheer!
Let all the ends of the earth pay heed and turn to the Lord,
   and the peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
     You;
   for kingship is the Lord's
   and He rules the nations.
All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
   all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
   shall bend the knee before Him.
Offspring shall serve Him;
   the Lord's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
   to come;
   they shall tell of His beneficence
   to people yet to be born,
   for He has acted.


Psalm 23
A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
   I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
   He leads me to water in places of repose;
   He renews my life;
   He guides me in right paths
   as befits His name.
Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,
   I fear no harm, for You are with me;
   Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;
   You anoint my head with oil;
   my drink is abundant.
Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me
   all the days of my life,
   and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   for many long years.


Psalm 63
A psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

God, You are my God;
   I search for You,
   my soul thirsts for You,
   my body yearns for You,
   as a parched and thirsty land that has no water.
I shall behold You in the sanctuary,
   and see Your might and glory,
Truly Your faithfulness is better than life;
   my lips declare Your praise.
I bless You all my life;
   I lift up my hands, invoking Your name.
I am sated as with a rich feast,
   I sing praises with joyful lips
   when I call You to mind upon my bed,
   when I think of You in the watches of the night;
   for You are my help,
   and in the shadow of Your wings
   I shout for joy.
My soul is attached to You;
   Your right hand supports me.

May those who seek to destroy my life
   enter the depths of the earth.
May they be gutted by the sword;
   may they be prey to jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
   all who swear by Him shall exult,
   when the mouth of liars is stopped.


Psalm 142
A maskil of David, while he was in the cave. A prayer.

I cry aloud to the Lord;
   I appeal to the Lord loudly for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
   I lay my trouble before Him
   when my spirit fails within me.
You know my course;
   they have laid a trap in the path I walk.
Look at my right and see—
   I have no friend;
   there is nowhere I can flee,
   no one cares about me.
So I cry to You, O Lord;
   I say, "You are my refuge,
   all I have in the land of the living."
Listen to my cry, for I have been brought very low;
   save me from my pursuers,
   for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison,
   that I may praise Your name.
The righteous shall glory in me
   for Your gracious dealings with me.


Psalm 143
A psalm of David.

O Lord, hear my prayer;
   give ear to my plea, as You are faithful;
   answer me, as You are beneficent.
Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
   for before You no creature is in the right.

My foe hounded me;
   he crushed me to the ground;
   he made me dwell in darkness
   like those long dead.
My spirit failed within me;
   my mind was numbed with horror.
Then I thought of the days of old;
   I rehearsed all Your deeds,
   recounted the work of Your hands.
I stretched out my hands to You,
   longing for You like thirsty earth.

Answer me quickly, O Lord;
   my spirit can endure no more.
Do not hide Your face from me,
   or I shall become like those who descend into the Pit.
Let me learn of Your faithfulness by daybreak,
   for in You I trust;
   let me know the road I must take,
   for on You I have set my hope.
Save me from my foes, O Lord;
   to You I look for cover.
Teach me to do Your will,
   for You are my God.
Let Your gracious spirit lead me
   on level ground.
For the sake of Your name, O Lord, preserve me;
   as You are beneficent, free me from distress.
As You are faithful, put an end to my foes;
   destroy all my mortal enemies,
   for I am Your servant.


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is author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which won the National Book Award in 2001.

is an educator, activist, and author of Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

is a poet and psychologist, and translator of Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

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