2020 has been an emotional year, to say the least. Most recently, the American election has been a storm of feelings, regardless of where one finds oneself on the political spectrum. Politics can be exceptionally emotional because it touches issues of rightful concern. And there have been some unmistakeable issues in 2020, even in Canada: hard conversations about racial justice and a society-altering global pandemic top the list. To feel deeply in this time is a valid experience.
But even in less turbulent times, emotions are always welcome in prayer. The one who created emotions is eager to have them expressed back to him. There is a whole book of poetic prayers in the Bible called Psalms: ancient hymns, laments, and thanksgivings that model the expression of heart cries before God. They give voice to a full range of human emotions, not merely in spiritual experiences, but also in grounded encounters with reality. Political experiences, for example.
Regardless of what you are feeling today, I hope you will look to God with prayers informed by Scripture. To help you do that, here is a selection of Psalms, listed with a short excerpt and labelled with their dominant emotions. Hopefully, you’ll find at least one that expresses what you are feeling. This resource is not here to suggest what you should be experiencing, but to point you to a part of Scripture to lean into, a place to pause and reflect.
Not all of these Psalms will be helpful to you right now. And there are many more Psalms beyond what is listed. But may you find something here that serves as a starting point for exploring emotional expressions before God.
Psalm 5 Demanding & Exasperated
Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
Psalm 27 Patient & Dependent
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? . . .
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 34 Grateful & Relieved
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 46 Concerned & Confident
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 52 Disgusted & Hostile
Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
Psalm 66 Jubilant & Enthusiastic
Come and see what God has done,
his awesome deeds for mankind!
Psalm 72 Respectful & Civil
Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
Psalm 73 Honest & Perplexed
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked . . .
When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
Psalm 75 Resolute & Subversive
You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.”
Psalm 92 Triumphant & Hopeful
My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
Psalm 94 Questioning & Anxious
How long, Lord, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant? . . .
Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
Psalm 120 Disillusioned & Frustrated
Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.
Psalm 136 Thankful & Confident
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
Psalm 140 Vindictive & Desperate
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence.