Praying the Psalms – Psalm 38
“This is one of a group of psalms known in later tradition as the penitential psalms, namely, psalms that confess sins and express confidence in God’s mercy. In this psalm a serious illness threatens the life of the worshiper.” – Notes from the Compass Study Bible
God, I pray that you do not get angry at me even when I completely turn my back to you. Even though I deserve it, please do not correct me out of fury. Don’t shoot me full of arrows. The world does that enough. It comes down hard on me. I couldn’t take that from you too.
I feel sick at the thought of you being angry with me, so much so that the thought of it drains me of my will to live. I can’t even walk because the sin in me and around me is so heavy. I am guilty of sinning against you and I can’t handle it anymore. This burden is too heavy for me to bear.
This disease infects me to the core. It penetrates every part of me and is revealed in all the foolish things I have done. I am so afraid of your wrath that I can’t even look upward. I can only stare at the ground; the weight is so heavy. I cry all day knowing how wrong I’ve been towards you. I feel like I’m dying. My body is breaking down from the stress of the guilt I carry.
I’m so overwhelmed by it all that I’m beginning to be numb to it. I am totally spent. I can’t even scream out for your mercy when my heart is agitated.
You know my heart. You know my desires. Every moan for help is no news to you. My heart pounds against my chest, beating out the rhythm of despair and exhaustion. The light of your love once shone bright in my eyes but now they are as dim and cloudy as a decaying fish washed up on a seashore. With that light fading, even my friends and family can see the change.
Those who want to harm me bait me with traps. Those who desire my downfall threaten. They spend their days plotting against me.
I cannot hear you over the sound of my own despair. I do not dare speak to you for fear of exposing my guilt and having you notice me. I just want to hide from your wrath.
Still, I wait expectantly for you, Compassionate One. I know deep down that you will answer my cries with mercy and love and not a closed fist. I will fail. But when I do, please touch the hearts of those that would laugh and celebrate my downfall.
I do not know how much time is left. Do not let me waste the time I have. I confess that I have sinned and regret all the wrong I have done. Even with this admittance, my enemies do not forgive. They hate me still. When I do good, they punish anyway. They stand against me in the path of any good I want to accomplish.
God, do not leave me to their mercy but protect me in yours. Stay near me. Do not stray from me. I will remain under the comfort of your gaze. When they are near, be my fortress and my rock. I need your help now – not later. Rescue me, my God.
And may your mercy and compassion rain down on those who wish to harm me. They know not what they do, even if they think they do. Stir in their hearts compassion and the knowledge that they are as far from you as they think I am. Do not destroy them. Restore them as I want you to restore me. AMEN.