As Lent approaches, let’s look at some devotions for Lent. Devotions for Lent are as varied as each individual soul. Some souls are called to severe spiritual disciplines while others are called to more moderate penances. These disciplines and penances are between the soul and her Creator. This is important to remember as you read about different devotions for Lent; keep an eye on your own soul, not your husband’s or your neighbors.
Quickly! Before we dig into this post, our Online Bible Study Community will be reading, writing, praying and studying the Seven Penitential Psalms this Lent (2019) We would love for you to join us! You get a daily Scripture Writing Plan, a set of worksheets with reflection prompts, plus a great community in our private Facebook Group. Click here to learn more and join us this Lent.
I grew up with the idea that all Lent devotions involved only giving something up from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. And it is, but there’s more to it that just giving something up for the sake of being able to say, “I gave up chocolate for Lent.” In addition to giving something up, many people do something extra; I didn’t know this until after I was married. One day I asked my sweet mother in law what she was giving up for Lent and she replied, “I’m doing something extra.”
These “something” extras are again, as varied as we are. It could be more time in prayer or silence. Making more acts of service in our home or community. But today I want to begin to look at the Seven Penitential Psalms as a part of our devotions for Lent, a devotional practice we can add to our Lenten prayer life.
Devotions for Lent: Seven Penitential Psalms
For those of you who frequent The Littlest Way, it should come as no surprise I begin looking at devotions for Lent by starting in the scriptures. I have committed this year to read the Bible in a year (again) as well as Bible Journaling.
Before we get into the seven actual Psalms, let’s look at the Psalms as a whole; the Psalms, which St. Athanasius once wrote he was “…devoted to…as indeed to the whole Bible.” I have a lovely, purse size book, My Daily Psalms Book: The Perfect Prayer Book, which has the Psalms arranged as they are when praying the Divine Office. This book alone would make a great book for Lenten devotions. But back to the Psalms.
Let each one, therefore, who recites the Psalms have a sure hope that through them God will speedily give ear to those who are in need. For if a man be in trouble when he says them, great comfort will he find in them; if he be tempted or persecuted, he will find himself abler to stand the test and will experience the protection of the Lord, Who always defends those who say these words. By them to a man will overthrow the devil and put the fiends to flight. If he have sinned, when he uses them he will repent; if he have not sinned, he will find himself rejoicing that he is stretching out towards the things that are before [Phil 3:16] and, so wrestling, in the power of the Psalms he will prevail.
The first of the Seven Penitential Psalms is Psalm 6. In it, the Psalmist cries, “How long O Lord?” Sound familiar? It does to me. And just as St. Athanasius wrote that those who recite the Psalms have a sure hope of God speedily hearing them, a couple verses down the Psalmist proclaims, “The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer.” That sentence sounds like a needed addition to our Daily Affirmations.
In A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture (which is wonderful for digging into the scriptures at a beginners level), the author states in the commentary on Genesis 32–the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, “The Holy patriarch wrestling with God is a figure of persevering prayer. As Jacob wrestles and cried out, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me,” so ought we never give up praying until we have been heard. Almighty God wills that we should, as it were, wrestle with Him in prayer, do violence to Him and storm Him with our petitions.”
It [the Psalms] heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul. Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates profligacy. Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God? Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day.
The second of the Seven Penitential Psalms is Psalm 31 (32— the difference in numbering explained here). The Psalmist declares in verse 7, “You are a hiding place for me, you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with deliverance. Selah.” Psalm 31 is entitled, “The Joy of Forgiveness.” Looking at the St. Basil quote above, this Psalm follows along with his description of the Psalms soothing, calming, preserving, reconciling and giving rest.
In the following posts, we will continue to look at the Seven Penitential Psalms as part of our devotions for Lent.