The psalms are not just prayers; they are poetry. The Hebrew of the psalms does not rhyme or have the kind of meter we might expect of poetry. The conventions of the psalms bring out a different kind of thought-rhythm. One commonly used poetic device is the use of synonymous lines together, like these, from Psalm 6: Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. Notice how each pair of lines expresses the same (or a similar) idea, but the psalmist is creative in ways to say the same thing again. Ever feel like you just *don’t* want to say the same thing again? Like a cry that has been at your mouth for far too long, and you’re just kind of tired? Like you’re “worn out from your groaning,” as the very center point of this psalm says? (Symmetry is another convention Hebrew poets use to bring out their meaning - how does it feel to hear David’s central message be “I’m so tired of this”? Does it feel familiar? Does it feel like something *you* could pray along with him?) How might finding new ways to express what is in you allow your soul to stay engaged with the prayer? Take a lesson from the Hebrew poets here, and as you write your poem-prayers this week, consider using paired lines as a way to flesh out a little bit of what you are saying as you go along. As you write one line, take a moment to be creative and add a second line that says the same thing in a new, parallel way. See what emerges.

Posted by Jamie Bonilla at 2021-11-09 14:56:52 UTC