When Jesus was dying on the cross, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

These are the opening lines of psalm 22. 

If a man’s dying words were "Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light?", we would suspect that he was not merely asking whether it were a clear morning.


Last fall I became aware that my prayer life needed a little help.  I had a pretty good handle on the art of complaining and begging, but wasn’t doing so well with praise or adoration.   About that time I ran across an ancient freebie prayer booklet that included the Te Deum.  Just what I’d been looking for.  I ripped it out and stuffed it in my daily missal, and started praying that prayer each morning.  Problem solved.

At about the same time, a friend and I were discussing how hard it was to get quiet time with the Lord.  Especially when the pregnancy and newborn lifestyle sucks up extra hours previously devoted to other activities, including prayer.   We considered the sometimes-offered advice that ladies in our state of life need not have a prayer time, but should simply offer up our daily work as a type of prayer.  That suggestion seemed a little off the mark.

It was after that discussion that I came to the  idea of memorizing psalms.   The thought being that then the prayers would be there when needed, available for use whenever and wherever an odd moment of silence appeared.  Not an original thought, but if gosh if the church is still doing it in the daily office after all these centuries, there must be something to it, right?

This works, but I did have to adapt the concept to my own limitations.  I picked a psalm (psalm 1 — because I didn’t know where else to start, so I started at the beginning) and started saying it every morning.  Just once.  This is the slow way to memorize, but if you stick to it, it will eventually stick to you.   Diligent students might do like I read about somewhere and tape scriptures on a wall in the bathroom or over the kitchen sink, but so far I am still in the slow group, just doing my one reading-through a day.

For Lent I put my regularly-scheduled scripture on hold, and switched over to psalm 22.  It’s a long one, and I doubt I’ll have it entirely memorized by Easter.  Still, when it shows up in the liturgy this year, it will already have started to become an old friend to me, the way memorized scripture does — when you encounter it, you already know it, and it makes you so happy to see or hear those familiar words. To already know, in this case, what lies beyond those opening lines cried out from the cross.