During the season of Lent it is not unusual to see part or all of Psalm 51 show up as the response to the first reading in our lectionary. It is the season when repentance for our faults is traditionally front and center and God’s mercy is a constant call. Psalm 51 is uniquely suited to those themes and appears again today for our consideration.
In keeping with yesterday’s reflection on the necessity of really listening with openness to the thoughts of others, I decided to look at what Nan Merrill’s translation added to the meaning of this psalm. Her book, Psalms for Praying, emerged from the deep reflection of silence and is decidedly softer than the traditional psalmody. I find a few of the nuances fresh and helpful for my own prayer and offer her words in prose form this morning which I hear as one side of a conversation with God from a person whose desire for right relationship is boundless.
Have mercy on me, O Gracious One, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant kindness forgive me where my thoughts and deeds have hurt others. Lead me in the paths of justice, guide my steps on paths of peace! Teach me that I may know my weaknesses, the shortcomings that bind me, the unloving ways that separate me, that keep me from recognizing your life in me; for I keep company with fear and dwell in the house of ignorance. Yet, I was brought forth in love, and love is my birthright.
You have placed your truth in the inner being; therefore, teach me the wisdom of the heart. Forgive all that binds me in fear, that I may radiate love; cleanse me that your light might shine in me. Fill me with gladness; help me to transform weakness into strength. Look not on my past mistakes but on the aspirations of my heart. Create in me a clean heart, O Gracious One, and put a new and right spirit within me. Enfold me in the arms of love, and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Restore me in the joy of your saving grace, and encourage me with a new spirit.