Writing Your Own Psalms
Have you ever tried to write your own psalm? Does that sound intimidating, or even inappropriate? A psalm is a sacred song or poem used in worship. We can all write them.
Materials and Setup
Materials & Setup:
Examples of psalms from the Bible and psalms written by everyday people.
Writing materials like a journal, paper, pens, and pencils.
Café Cantate Domino
A Coffee Psalm
You percolate . . . and the mere sound of you stirs me from sleep. I thirst
for you, O God, in the morning when I wake up. Your aroma permeates
my soul when I come into your presence. You pour yourself out and
shower me with blessings. You fill my cup with good things. Your
heat and steam rise as incense and fill my nostrils. I lift you up
with my hands and drink you into my being. Your warmth
penetrates my mouth. O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Your warmth continues to travel through me, warming my
gut. You dwell ever within me. You energize me, O God.
After a time, you give me energy to set about the tasks
you lay before me. I return to you, O God, throughout
the day, and get renewed and refreshed every time
I drink you in. O taste and see that the Lord is
good! You restore my soul and fill my senses.
You help me get through the day when
my sleepiness tries to keep me
from doing your will. O taste and see that the Lord is good.
O God, you are like coffee to me!
© 2012 by C. Christian Dederer
On my journey to You, I was distracted
bu the sea and mountains.
Foolishly, I dismissed clouds traveling
in indescribable shapes.
I tried to describe those that seemed to invite my efforts.
In defiance, they altered
their faces and went about their business.
For too lonf, my spiritual level dwelt in what seemed fixed.
I missed that even rocks
are constantly in flux.
In ignorance I dared to claim that
You do not change.
What is prayer other than effort
to get You to change
what appears to be Your plan?
“If it is possible, remove this cup…”
Help me escape crutches
in whatever form they appear.
Help me respect the beauty
in the clouds as they cross the skies,
while making alliances only with those who share
their present understanding.
By Dwight L. Wilson from his book, Modern Psalms: In Search of Peace and Justice
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
They say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him.”
Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me.
May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.
If the psalms of Scripture breathe out of the anatomy of the psalmist’s soul, as Calvin says, then why can’t our own psalms do much the same?
Begin by acknowledging that just as we are complex persons with a range of emotions and needs, so the psalms are equally diverse to meet us in all those experiences. Read a selected variety of psalms. Psalms that speak of trust, give comfort, cry out to God, shout praise, confess sins, make testimony, and even argue. There are some examples in the materials & setup section.
Focus on these four types of psalms: psalms of praise (think of Psalm 8), of testimony (think of Psalm 46), of confession (think of Psalm 51), and of lament (think of Psalm 13).
- Write from the standpoint of faith; trusting God no matter what.
- Write in poetic form, not prose; verse form, not paragraph.
- Write with candor and honesty. The psalmists have taught us that pain and struggle can be freely expressed to God.
- Allow your feelings and emotions to show through, because faith is more than knowledge and facts.
- Use figurative speech, including metaphors and similes like the psalmists used.
- Write reflectively after sorting through our own experiences.
Invite participants to find a comfortable place to write. The start will be uncomfortable for many people, with feelings that they don’t know what to write or how to begin. Encourage worship and reflection.
Expect some frustration, changing things, scratching things out and after a little while starting over again.
Take a 15-minute movement and body-needs break.
Come back together and take time to review what’s been written, time for revision.
End with time for each participant to share their psalm with the group.
If there’s time, reflect on the experience with these queries:
What surprised you about this activity?
What did you learn?