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Praying the Psalms in Lent

Resources for Lectionary Year B

In addition to teaching and praise, the psalms can be a great resource for prayer. Those appointed by Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary lend themselves particularly well to that. What follows are examples of the psalms for Year B used as building blocks for prayers of the people for Lenten Sundays.

You will, of course, need to adapt these prayers for your own specific situation. The ellipses (. . .) indicate places where specific concerns may be added, and the ending of each prayer has been left open; a prayer may end with a simple “Amen,” with the Lord’s Prayer, or with something else, depending upon your context.

These are truly prayers of the people: each prayer includes some congregational participation (in bold type), and the prayers for Lent 2 and for Palm or Passion Sunday call for multiple leaders.

These prayers all include occasions for silence. Please allow them to be times of true silence, not filled with musical interludes; you may gradually lengthen them as your congregation gets comfortable with silence.

Lent 1

Psalm 25:1-4, 5-10

This prayer is set between responsive readings from two sections of Psalm 25.

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths. (vv. 1-4)

We are taking our first Lenten steps, O God,
remembering how you sent Noah and his family
away from the safety of the ark,
remembering how you stayed with Jesus
to face the dangers of the desert.
We are taking our first steps, in faith and in trust.
Show us your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.

Silence

We are taking our first steps, Creator God,
knowing we are surrounded by dangers,
remembering many of them are of our own making.
We pray for this world, and for all the people in it.
Make us good stewards of all that you have given us:
land, water, sky, plants, creatures, and people.
Be with those in places of conflict or danger this day . . .
Be with those who lay down their lives for others . . .
Be with those who lead us . . .
Make us know your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.

Silence

We are taking our first steps, Nurturing God,
knowing many people are in trouble,
remembering we are called to bring them your care.
We pray for all those who are alone,
all those who are imprisoned,
and all those who are ill or infirm . . .
Make us know your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.

Silence

We are taking our first steps, Shepherding God,
knowing we are called to be the body of Christ,
remembering we are to be the light
showing your path to the world.
We pray for your holy Church . . .
Make us know your ways, O Lord;
teach us your paths.

Silence

We are taking our first Lenten steps, O God.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. (vv. 5-10)
Hear these and all our prayers, great God,
in the name of Christ, in whose footsteps we follow.

Lent 2

Psalm 22:23-31

A single voice—not the worship leader—reads Psalm 22:23-31. The worship leader immediately begins the prayer. One leader may lead the entire prayer, or three additional leaders may lead sections B, C, and D.

Voice A: We praise you, O God!
We glorify you!
We come to you with wonder and awe,
knowing you will hear our prayers.
Voice B: God who does not turn away from the afflicted,
who always hears our cries,
we pray for those who are in special need this day:
for those who are in prison or alone,
for those who are ill or infirm,
for those who mourn . . .
and we give thanks for those
who have found your healing in their lives . . .

Silence

Voice C: God who gathers us into the great congregation,
around whose table we eat and are satisfied
as we seek you and lead others to you:
we pray for your holy Church;
for this congregation gathered here . . .
for sisters and brothers in our community . . .
for your Church around the world . . .
for all whose lives proclaim your praise.

Silence

Voice D: God who rules over all the nations,
who cares for us even when we do not recognize you:
we pray for this world, where you call us to be stewards.
We pray for your help in caring for this creation . . .
We pray for your protection over those in conflict or danger this day . . .
We pray for your strength for those who lay down their
lives to protect brothers, sisters, and neighbors . . .
We pray for your wisdom for the leaders of nations, cities, and towns.

Silence

Voice A: All who sleep in the earth,
all who become dust will bow down before you,
and I will live for you!
Posterity will serve you!
Future generations will be told about you!
People not yet born will be saved by you!
We pray with confidence,
knowing that you have already done it.

Lent 3

Psalm 19

This psalm of praise may well have been read or sung earlier in the day’s liturgy. If not, consider singing it immediately before or after the prayer, using “God’s Glory Fills the Heavens with Hymns” (SNC 88). The prayer that follows is built on themes from the psalm.

God, your glory fills the heavens
and all that you have made bears your mark.
We pray for this creation:
we ask forgiveness for the ways in which we have disfigured it;
we pray for those who cannot enjoy
the warm sun or the cool night,
those who are imprisoned or alone . . .
those who are ill or infirm . . .
those who mourn . . .
Use all of us, our hearts, our hands,
to bring your wondrous power into their lives.
Let us glorify you, O God.
Let your hymn resound in our lives.

Silence

God, your perfect law protects and revives us
and your way enlightens and enlivens us.
We pray for all the peoples of this world,
people hungry for order and safety, warmth and shelter . . .
women and men who lay down their lives to keep their neighbors safe . . .
and those who lead our nations, cities, and towns . . .
Help us unearth this treasure of justice and equality
and bring it to all the world.
Let us glorify you, O God.
Let your hymn resound in our lives.

Silence

God, who brings the true sweetness,
the true riches of life to those who serve you,
who gathers, protects and preserves us:
We pray for your holy Church . . .
Keep us blameless and innocent.
Cleanse our faults,
increase our faith,
inspire our work and witness in your name.
Let us glorify you, O God.
Let your hymn resound in our lives.

Silence

Hear these and all our prayers, great God.
Let the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable to you, O Lord,
our Rock and our Redeemer.

Lent 4

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Because this psalm has such a strong confession theme, it may have been used earlier in the liturgy. This prayer picks up on its themes and language.

We come to you in prayer, O God.
We know your steadfast love endures forever.
We pray for a world that is sick through our sinful ways,
with an environment that is out of balance,
with economies that are out of balance,
with nations and races that are out of balance.
We pray to you; come save us.

We pray for people in places of conflict and danger this day . . .
for those who give their lives to keep their families, friends,
and neighbors safe . . .
and for our leaders . . .

Silence

We come to you in prayer, O God.
We know your steadfast love endures forever.
We pray for a people who are sick and afflicted
through our sinful ways,
sick and afflicted through broken relationships,
sick and afflicted because of hunger and poverty,
sick and afflicted because of bodies distressed and near death.
We pray to you; come heal us.

We pray for those who are imprisoned or alone today . . .
for those who are ill or infirm . . .
and for those who mourn . . .

Silence

We come to you in prayer, O God.
We know your steadfast love endures forever.
We pray for your Church,
sent to heal and deliver our world
but beset by fears,
bogged down by petty problems,
broken by stingy ears and overly lavish egos.
We pray to you; come gather us at your table.

We pray for this congregation gathered here . . .

Silence

We come to you in prayer, O God.
We thank you for your steadfast love
and your wonderful works.
Remake our lives as thanksgiving sacrifices.
Send us forth to tell of your deeds with songs of joy.
Hear these and all our prayers,
in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,
whom you sent to save us.

Lent 5

Psalm 119:9-16

The primary psalm appointed for today (51:1-12) was also appointed for Ash Wednesday and may also be suitable for a prayer of confession today; therefore, the other possible psalm is used here.

The lectionary portion of the psalm begins this prayer, while the ending alludes to the psalm’s opening verses. Choir members or other assigned members of the congregation will need to help the prayers start again after each silence.

How can those who are young keep their way pure?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word. (vv. 9-16)
We who are young,
we who are old,
we who are rich,
we who are poor,
we who gather from every way and walk of life,
seeking you with our whole hearts,
trying to guard our lives according to your Word,
we come to you in prayer.

The worship leader may offer up particular thanksgivings and concerns, each followed by a time of silent prayer.

We who seek you with our whole heart
offer you our prayers,
in the name of Christ, your Son, our Savior,
whose life was laid down that all our lives might rise.

Palm or Passion Sunday

Psalm 31:9-16

If you celebrate Palm Sunday, you may have used Psalm 118 early in worship, and your liturgy is turning more somber toward the end. If you celebrate Passion Sunday, this is the psalm of the day. This prayer requires two voices.
Voice A: Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak. (vv. 9-10)
Voice B: We follow you into Jerusalem, and we watch you weep.
We are just beginning to acknowledge
the depths of our trouble and need.
And so we pray for all who are in trouble
and need this day . . .
for those whose bodies or minds fail them . . .
for those who waste away from grief and loss . . .

Silence

Voice A: I am the utter contempt of my neighbors;
I am a dread to my friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery. (vv. 11-12)
Voice B: We follow you into Jerusalem,
and eventually to Pilate’s court.
We know that we live in a world of fear,
a world of enemies and terror.
And so we pray for all the peoples of our world,
especially those in danger this day . . .
for those who give their lives to make their neighbors safe . . .
for those who lead this world’s nations, cities, and towns . . .

Silence

Voice A: For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.” (vv. 13-14)
Voice B: We follow you into Jerusalem, to protest, to teach, to feed, and to pray.
We know that, in a dangerous world,
your Church can be a place of safety.
We know that, in a dangerous world,
your Church must stand up to all the dangers.
And so we pray for your holy Church . . .

Silence

Voice B: We follow you into Jerusalem; we follow you to the cross.
We follow, because we trust in you, our God.
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
(vv. 15-16)
Voice B: Hear our prayers, and give us the strength to follow.