Psalm writing is a written form of prayer that follows the pattern of honest expression of thoughts and feelings found in the Psalms. It is a way of receiving scriptural truth and applying it to individual lives.
Ask several people to read at least two of the “Scriptures for Reflection.” Read one psalm that expresses distress or lament and one that expresses praise or gratitude.
Invite group members to share a short portion (no more than a few verses) from their favorite Psalm.
Invite group members to spend a brief time quietly reflecting on the experiences and events of their lives now. Some focus questions might include the following:
- How do you feel about your life experience just now?
- How is it with you, your friends, your family, and your enemies?
- How is it with you and God?
- What are some specific stresses, losses, or burdens in your life?
- What are some specific blessings, gifts, surprises, and successes in your life?
Invite group members to write a psalm (prayer, poem, or paragraph) to God that expresses their clearest, most powerful feelings and needs in this moment. Remind them that a variety of emotions is often expressed in one psalm.
Spend five to ten minutes in the psalm-writing activity.
Allow time for those who want to share their psalms to read all or part of them to the group.
Those people who do not wish to read all or part of their psalms may choose to reflect on how they felt about writing them.
If there is time remaining, engage group in a brief discussion of the Psalms as scriptures that are relevant to the human experience. Focus questions might include the following:
- How and when have the Psalms been most helpful to you?
- How do you feel about the psalmist’s expression of anger or complaints toward God?
- What about anger or destructive wishes toward enemies?
- What kind of God is the psalmist communicating with? How does this match or not match with your personal understandings of God?
Note to Group Facilitator
Prepare for this spiritual practice by assigning the group members to do reflective reading in the book of Psalms before coming to the meeting. Ask them to come ready to share a brief portion of their favorite psalm. Ask the group to bring Bibles to the session
Scriptures for Reflection
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.—Psalm 22:1–2, 14–15 NRSV
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.—Psalm 103:1–5 NRSV
Listen to my prayer, O Lord, and hear my cry for help. My life is disappearing like smoke; my body is burning like fire. I am beaten down like dry grass; I have lost my desire for food. I groan aloud; I am nothing but skin and bones. I am like a wild bird in the desert, like an owl in abandoned ruins. Because of your anger and fury, ashes are my food, and my tears are mixed with my drink. You picked me up and threw me away. My life is like the evening shadows; I am like dry grass. —Psalm 102:1, 3–6, 9–11 Good News Bible
Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your 9. If there is time remaining, engage the chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.—Psalm 104:1–4, 33 NRSV