As we prepare for Lent, I thought I would share some devotions for Lent. The other day I began by looking at the Seven Penitential Psalms and today I want to continue. First though, if you don’t already have a devotional for Lent, consider our free Lent Devotional for Women.
Let’s start with a little history of the Seven Penitential Psalms. The Seven Psalms are the 6, 31 (32), 37 (38), 50 (51), 101 (102), 129 (130), and 142 (143) Psalms. (Explanation of the different numbering here.) As early as the fifth century, four were known as “Penitential Psalms” by St. Augustine of Hippo. The fifty-first Psalm (Miserere) was recited at the close of daily morning service in the primitive Church. (Wikipedia)
These Psalms are a perfect addition to devotions for Lent. Of course, because they are the Word of God but also because they have been historically recognized as penitential Psalms.
Devotions for Lent: The Seven Penitential Psalms
Psalm 37 (38) is titled, “A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing.” Are you maybe wondering why the same seven Psalms over and over? I think the title of this Psalm answers that question. In our lifetime, we will plead for healing over and over. We will pray over and over and over for what may seem like an unheard prayer. We may also pray over and over and over, because, if you are anything like me, I need lots of healing.
Daily I’m dealing with sin and vice and just when I seem to make some progress on one, another seems to rear even worse the first. The short answer, we cannot exhaust the same seven Psalms.
“It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom.”
— St. John Chrysostom
Would you say Psalm 50 (51) is as close to a well known Psalm as Psalm 23? I would. There was a time when I meditated frequently on Psalm 51. This time period was extremely painful but in God’s goodness and mercy, it became such a wonderful time of spiritual growth. It was during this time when I realized the goodness of God in comparison to my own selfishness and sin.
During that time period, when I would meditate on Psalm 51, these verses really spoke to me–verse 6…“Behold you desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart,” and verse 17…“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
These verses reminded me that my sin was against God and I needed to confess them; to acknowledge the truth about me, to myself, in the presence of God. As I revealed the truth of my inner self, it was painful and I needed God’s wisdom to see my sins, but also know His mercy. I came to Him broken and that was ok.
When I would approach God in my humble, painful brokenness, He did not despise my brokenness. As a matter of fact, it was then He was finally able to begin to do His good work in my heart.
If you fall, rise and you shall be saved. You are a sinner, you continually fall, learn also how to rise; be careful to acquire this wisdom. This is what the wisdom consists in: learning by heart the psalm, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness,’ inspired by the Holy Spirit to the king and prophet David, and say it with sincere faith and trust, with a contrite and humble heart. After your sincere repentance, expressed in the words of King David, the forgiveness of your sins shall immediately shine upon you from the Lord, and your spiritual powers will be at peace.
—My Life in Christ, or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment and Peace in God
In Psalm 101, the Psalmist declares, “But Thou art always the same, and Thy years have no end.” This Psalm reminds me of the saying, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved.” God is the same and it’s my hormones, lack of sleep, too much sugar, too much or not enough caffeine, not to mention everyday sins and vices that get in the way of God and me.
It’s always a good idea to go back to God and say, “Here I am Lord.” And it’s even better to remind myself, “I will sing of mercy and of justice; to you O Lord, I will sing.”
Yes, Lent is a penitential season in the Church, but remember as Pope St. John Paul II said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Sing of the Lord’s goodness to remind yourself, to lift your spirits, and to draw others to Christ.
I’ve mentioned our free Lent Devotional for Women if you don’t already have a devotional. Here’s a post with some of my favorite books for Lent. I added a new one this year, Dangerous Prayers. Although not a Lent book, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time; it seriously challenged my prayer life and forced me to examine my dependence on God.