Personalizing a Psalm to God: Day 18 of the Pray-May Challenge

Do you have a hard time being fully honest with God? Do you tend to hold back and say only what’s “appropriate”?

We can all struggle with full disclosure with God, even when we remind ourselves that he already knows what we are experiencing. Getting close to saying what we feel, we might pull back from what we regard as dangerous emotions, thinking them unsuitable for Christians.

But what if we could tap into a range of examples of how others have spoken to God, with raw, unfiltered honesty? That’s exactly what we have in the Psalms.

This collection of songs cover the whole range of human experience and emotion, from elation to anger, praise to prejudice, deep depression and extreme anxiety and wonderful delight. The writers experienced betrayal, insight, discouragement and comfort, at times expressed within the same song. And they took their emotions and struggle, as well as their joy and wonder, to the One who always hears.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43:5 NIV)

While the Bible is God’s Word to us, there is a sense in which these 150 Psalms are actually our word to God. They give us language for our hearts and minds, inviting us to get real before our Father.

Here on Day 18, our prayer challenge is to personalize a Psalm to God.

The challenge runs like this:

  1. Pick a Psalm which resonates with your heart today. This may take a little time. You may already know which one fits the bill, but here are a few suggestions.
    • Do you need comfort? Try Psalm 23
    • Need to be reminded of God’s goodness? Psalm 30 is great.
    • Want to tell God how great he is? Psalm 8 or 103
    • Feeling insecure? Psalm 91
    • Just want to praise God? Psalm 148
    • Deeply discouraged? Psalm 13
    • Time to confess? Psalm 51
  2. Read through the Psalm a few times to get a feel for it. 
  3. Then, using a notebook, journal or paper, write out this Psalm in your own words. Personalize it, fill it out, take what it’s saying and expand it for your situation. It’s important to realize that you are not “translating it” so that you are restricted to making some kind of paraphrase. Rather, you are free to write more than is there, change images, express your own heart in it. Take the Psalm as a basic form, and insert your own life, experiences, struggle, metaphors, challenges, joy, and delight right into it. You may put the names of others in it, or insert your own name. You can say exactly what you are feeling, hoping, or raging about to God.
  4. Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! (Psalm 96:1 NLT)

    A beautiful option: If you are a musician or poet, you could express this Psalm in music or poetry. For centuries, Christians have done this–the Psalms are deep wells from which inspiration springs. As a photographer or graphic designer, you could also set your Psalm to image.

  5. When you are done, reflect upon this word of yours to God. Does it capture what you were trying to say? Is there something yet to be expressed? And how do you feel about what you’ve said? This is your Psalm now, though it may have been originally penned by David or Asaph.

Many have found personalized Psalms powerful, as it has helped them articulate their own words using the framework of someone else’s prayer. And by using the Psalms, we who may have held back feel permission to express more fully our emotions. The raw honest of the Psalmists give us ways to become more honest with God, and with ourselves.

What Psalm will you pick? Let us know by leaving a comment below. And tell us how it went for you. The more we share with each other, the more we will all grow together.

My prayer for you today: Father, you are not frightened by our emotions. In fact, you invite us to come into your presence with boldness, exactly as we are. Thank you for these Psalms, and for those who put their heart into words before you, leaving us these profound examples of honest prayer. Help us today to personalize these words, and express them to you. And in your grace, hear us and respond.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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