Psalm 142

Psalm 142

Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm :

Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉 

Breath Prayer:  I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often.  Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise.  This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine.  Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.  

I did a breath prayer video for my friends at Missing Peace.

Psalm 142 appears in lectionary year D with: Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17; Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45; and Philippians 2:14-30


I watched “When they see us” on Netflix the day before I began to write the reflection for this psalm. It is difficult not to hear, in the psalmist words, the cries of those boys (around the ages of 14-16) who spent too many years of their lives in prison for a crime they did not commit. A trap was set for them. They were treated with cruelty while being questioned, all of them told if they just say what the police want to hear they could go home. But that lie only led to them being held in prison, tried, and convicted for a violent rape of a white woman. Oh, if you didn’t know all of these boys (men now) are black and were picked up by police just because of the color of their skin. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a heart wrenching, eye opening, though provoking four hours you will be glad you spent listening to their voices.

In Psalm 142, the worshipper thinks about reuniting with his community. Somehow connecting with God has called to mind the other worshippers and he desires to be united with them for worship. The OTL commentary notes, ” In that the individual is united with God in spirit, his destiny is set free from its former isolation and is drawn into the corporate life of the religious community, which is based on a common faith mutually enriching the religious life of its members.” I think the opposite must be true as well; that when a worshiping community is united with God in spirit, that community is also united with those experiencing isolation, imprisonment, and hardship. Somehow, if we are connected with the divine, we are also connected with our neighbors. And because of this connection we should be able to have empathy for our neighbors; empathy that leads to solidarity. For me, this resonates with the sentiment, that none of us are free, until we are all free. We can look forward to that freedom in the heavenly kingdom, even as we work to bring that kingdom into reality on earth.

Let us pray:

God of justice, In your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history. And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (This prayer is from Catholic Charities)

Breath prayer practice:

God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your justice and release my indifference. You can always pick different words for your breath prayer. You may want to receive justice, peace, mercy and release indifference, anger, prejudice for example. But the idea of a breath prayer is to keep it simple so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale.

Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in justice. Breath out indifference. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.

This quote is attributed to Emma Lazarus who also wrote the poem “The New Colossus” which is engraved on a bronze plaque located in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Side notes about Emma Lazarus: Emma Lazarus Princeton news and Emma Lazarus She Loves Magazine and Emma Lazarus “The New Colossus”.

Side note on the side note: None of us are free is a rhythm and blues song with the lyric “None of us are free if one of us are chained” made popular by Solomon Burke also resonates with Psalm 142.

Sources and notes for Psalm 142:

This psalm is sometimes attributed to David’s experience in a cave, but which cave is unclear. “Perhaps the reference is to the cave of Adullam, where David fled from Gath to find refuge and was alone for a time with none to care but his God (cf. vv. 4-5 and 1 Sam. 22:1; others suggest the cave of Engedi, 1 Sam. 24:3-4).” Mays p. 431

“The one who prays is beset by persecutors, and in his danger he is alone. No human being offers a refuge of concern and care. The reference to prison or confinement in verse 7 is ambiguous. In the Old Testament context, it could mean the custody in which one was held before trial (Num. 15:34), or being shut up in the exilic situation (Isa. 42:7), or it could serve as a metaphor for distress (Ps. 88:8; Lam. 3:6-9), or as a metaphor for the bonds of death. The ambiguity may be intentional. It has certainly rendered the psalm open to use by people who are bound and shut up in all sorts of ways. The need for liberation takes many forms.” Mays p. 431

“The simple psalm is a deeply felt prayer of lament of a man who has been forsaken. Persecuted by people who are mightier than he (v.6) and brought to the verge of despair by their malicious plots, he offers a fervent and moving lament which arises out of most intense physical and mental suffering, to the God who is the only refuge left to him after even his friends have turned their back on him or, what can no longe be clearly recognized, were prevented from caring for him by the violent measures taken by his persecutors (v.4). The latter would be the case if the petition (v.7) to be set free from prison could be interpreted literally. In that case the worshipper would have been put into prison as a result of the insidious machinations of his adversaries (v. 3) and without being guilty would probably be languishing in custody, where, spirited from his friends and without any hope of human help, he would have to face trial by ordeal.” OTL p. 813

In verse 4, the psalmist looks to his right, “which is the place where his counsel and helper would normally stand (cf. Pss. 16.8; 110.5; 121.5), he sees that his is solitary and forsaken.” OTL p. 815

In verse 7, the psalmist mentions the righteous surrounding him. This is probably a reference to being united with his worshiping community. “What happens to the faith of an individual member of the cult community is the concern of the cult community as a whole; for thereby the faith of all its members is decisively influenced because it is God and the testimony that is borne to him that are the ultimate purpose of worship. In that the individual is united with God in purpose of worship. In that the individual is united with God in spirit, his destiny is set free from its former isolation and is drawn into the corporate life of the religious community, which is based on a common faith mutually enriching the religious life of its members. Isolation in loneliness and fellowship grounded in a common faith are the two poles around which the thoughts of the psalmist revolve as he wrestles in prayer. In holding fast to his trust in God the worshipper enters upon the way which leads to the resolution of the tension resulting from that polarity. In this lies the strength of this intimate prayer which appeals to us so much because of its simplicity and humility.” OTL pp. 816-817

WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.

Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.

Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.

Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.

WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.

OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

Other Year D Psalm blog posts:

I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D.  Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C).  Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.  

I began this series in Lent 2020.  These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises.  Here are the links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35.  I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again. 

I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.  

Holy Week: Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35, Maundy Thursday Psalm 115 or 113, Good Friday Psalm 88, Holy Saturday (Great Vigil) Psalms 7, 17, 44, 57 or 108, 119:145-176, 149.

The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.

Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year.  Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.

Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.

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