Psalms for Praying – An Invitation to Wholeness


A few years ago my spiritual director referred me to a book called “Psalms for Praying” by Nan C. Merrill. But due to my schedule I had put it on the shelf and forgotten about it until my recent prayer group’s leader started to use it also. Now reading from it is part of my morning routine.

What I enjoy the most about these psalms is the lack of violence found in them. Instead, the experience of darkness is relegated to the consciousness of doubt, fear, ignorance and illusion, mostly within oneself.

For example, “Fear and doubt sought to capture me, weaving webs of confusion….Yet You, O Beloved, were ever near waiting for me to call upon You.” (Psalm 55) “Oppression and ignorance do not depart where truth is a stranger.” ( psalm 55) “For You deliver me from my illusions and, through Love, my heart opens to Wisdom.” (Psalm 54)

The prevalence of the “spirit of co-operation, co-creation, and companionship with the Beloved” (p. x) among its verses contrasted with that of competition with God, others and other nations establishes this literature as a work of its time rather than a text from of old.

The absence of patriarchal language is a soothing contrast to ubiquitous literature laden with male supremacy. Instead, in reference to God, Merrill uses gender neutral terms like Beloved, Heart of my heart, Healer, Great Mystery and Love.

Merrill delves into the depths of darkness – always assured of the Light: “You are the Light of those imprisoned in darkness. Surely You will guide us into the new dawn, that we may live as co-creators with You!” (Psalm 140 p. 281)

There is no shortage of metaphors in her descriptions: “Lead me to words of wisdom and truth, seeds to be planted in my heart-soil.” (Psalm 141, p. 282) thus demonstrating its true form: that of poetry.

The book does not presume to replace the historically important Hebrew Psalms. It is instead, as Merrill states: “a companion, a dialogue…of one age speaking with a later age.” (p.x)

As with the old psalms, Merrill delves into the depths of the heart, expressing emotions relevant for today’s experiences

Grace Colella is an educator and part-time student in the MAMS program at Regis College.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 01:05h, 19 September Reply

    Thank you Grace!

  • Claudia McTaggart
    Posted at 18:37h, 19 September Reply

    I have savored, prayed with, this book for many years, and continue to find nourishment in daily use.

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 07:42h, 20 September Reply

    lovely, thank you.

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