Prayer in Distress

1For the leader; with stringed instruments, “upon the eighth.”*

A psalm of David.


2Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD,

nor punish me in your wrath.a

3Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;

heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering.b

4My soul too is shuddering greatly—

and you, LORD, how long?*c

5Turn back, LORD, rescue my soul;

save me because of your mercy.

6For in death there is no remembrance of you.

Who praises you in Sheol?*d


7I am wearied with sighing;

all night long I drench my bed with tears;

I soak my couch with weeping.

8My eyes are dimmed with sorrow,

worn out because of all my foes.e


9Away from me, all who do evil!f

The LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

10The LORD has heard my plea;

the LORD will receive my prayer.

11My foes will all be disgraced and will shudder greatly;

they will turn back in sudden disgrace.g

* [Psalm 6] The first of the seven Penitential Psalms (Ps 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143), a designation dating from the seventh century A.D. for Psalms suitable to express repentance. The psalmist does not, as in many laments, claim to be innocent but appeals to God’s mercy (Ps 6:5). Sin here, as often in the Bible, is both the sinful act and its injurious consequences; here it is physical sickness (Ps 6:34, 78) and the attacks of enemies (Ps 6:8, 9, 11). The psalmist prays that the effects of personal and social sin be taken away.

* [6:1] Upon the eighth: apparently a musical notation, now lost.

* [6:4] How long?: elliptical for “How long will it be before you answer my prayer?” cf. Ps 13:23.

* [6:6] A motive for God to preserve the psalmist from death: in the shadowy world of the dead no one offers you praise. Sheol is the biblical term for the underworld where the insubstantial souls of dead human beings dwelt. It was similar to the Hades of Greek and Latin literature. In the second century B.C., biblical books begin to speak positively of life with God after death (Dn 12:13; Wis 3).

a. [6:2] Ps 38:2.

b. [6:3] Jer 17:1415.

c. [6:4] Ps 13:23; 74:10; 89:47.

d. [6:6] Ps 30:10; 88:11; 115:17; Is 38:18.

e. [6:8] Ps 31:10; 38:11; 40:13.

f. [6:9] Ps 119:115; Mt 7:23; Lk 13:27.

g. [6:11] Ps 35:4, 26; 40:15; 71:13.

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