The Seven Penitential Psalms

Of the 150 Psalms, seven have been identified traditionally as Penitential in tone and vocabulary. None of the seven is routinely used in our Wednesday Morning Prayer Liturgy.

Here is a helpful link to a page in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Website about the seven penitential psalms. Below is a screen shot (without hot links) of the table you will find at the USCCB site. The table at the website is complete with hot links to the seven Psalms, both written and spoken, and a short Reflection on each. Just for convenience and quick reading I have included the text of the Psalms below, but I plan on using the USCCB site at some point(s) during Lent. Some of these, attributed to David, may make us think of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.

Psalm 6 For the leader; with stringed instruments, “upon the eighth.” A psalm of David.

2 Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.

3 Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.

4 In utter terror is my soul– and you, LORD, how long…?

5 Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.

6 For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?

7 I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.

8 My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.

9 Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.

10 The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.

11 My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.


Psalm 32  Of David. A maskil.

1 Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.

2 Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Selah

5 Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Thus should all your faithful pray in time of distress. Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach them.

7 You are my shelter; from distress you keep me; with safety you ring me round. Selah

8 I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.

9 Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart.


Psalm 38 A psalm of David. For remembrance.

2 LORD, punish me no more in your anger; in your wrath do not chastise me!

3 Your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me.

4 My flesh is afflicted because of your anger; my frame aches because of my sin.

5 My iniquities overwhelm me, a burden beyond my strength.

6 Foul and festering are my sores because of my folly.

7 I am stooped and deeply bowed; all day I go about mourning.

8 My loins burn with fever; my flesh is afflicted.

9 I am numb and utterly crushed; I wail with anguish of heart.

10 My Lord, my deepest yearning is before you; my groaning is not hidden from you.

11 My heart shudders, my strength forsakes me; the very light of my eyes has failed.

12 Friends and companions shun my pain; my neighbors stand far off.

13 Those who seek my life lay snares for me; they seek my misfortune, they speak of ruin; they plot treachery all  the day.

14 But I am like the deaf, hearing nothing, like the dumb, saying nothing,

15 Like someone who does not hear, who has no answer ready.

16 LORD, I wait for you; O Lord, my God, answer me.

17 For I fear they will gloat, exult over me if I stumble.

18 I am very near to falling; my pain is with me always.

19 I acknowledge my guilt and grieve over my sin.

20 But many are my foes without cause, a multitude of enemies without reason,

21 Repaying me evil for good, harassing me for pursuing good.

22 Forsake me not, O LORD; my God, be not far from me!

23 Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my salvation!


Psalm 51 For the leader. A psalm of David,

2 when Nathan the prophet came to him after his affair with Bathsheba.

3 Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

4 Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

5 For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.

6 Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.

7 True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.

8 Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.

9 Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

11 Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt.

12 A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

13 Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.

14 Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.

15 I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.

16 Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.

17 Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.

18 For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.

19 My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. III

20 Make Zion prosper in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

21 Then you will be pleased with proper sacrifice, burnt offerings and holocausts; then bullocks will be offered on your altar.


Psalm 102 The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away whose anguish is poured out before the LORD.

2 LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.

3 Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

4 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn away as in a furnace.

5 I am withered, dried up like grass, too wasted to eat my food.

6 From my loud groaning I become just skin and bones.

7 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.

8 I lie awake and moan, like a lone sparrow on the roof.

9 All day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse.

10 I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears.

11 Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.

12 My days are like a lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.

13 But you, LORD, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.

14 You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.

15 Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity.

16 The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory,

17 Once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory,

18 Heeding the plea of the lowly, not scorning their prayer.

19 Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD:

20 “The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven,

21 To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”

22 Then the LORD’S name will be declared on Zion, the praise of God in Jerusalem,

23 When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the LORD.

24 God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.

25 I plead, O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days. Your years last through all generations.

26 Of old you laid the earth’s foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.

27 They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing you change them and they are changed,

28 but you are the same, your years have no end.

29 May the children of your servants live on; may their descendants live in your presence.


Psalm 130 A song of ascents.

1 Out of the depths I call to you, LORD;

2 Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, LORD, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand?

4 But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.

5 I wait with longing for the LORD, my soul waits for his word.

6 My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak,

7 let Israel look for the LORD, For with the LORD is kindness, with him is full redemption,

8 And God will redeem Israel from all their sins.


Psalm 143 A psalm of David.

1 LORD, hear my prayer; in your faithfulness listen to my pleading; answer me in your justice.

2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant; before you no living being can be just.

3 The enemy has pursued me; they have crushed my life to the ground. They have left me in darkness like those long dead.

4 My spirit is faint within me; my heart is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of old; I ponder all your deeds; the works of your hands I recall.

6 I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Selah

7 Hasten to answer me, LORD; for my spirit fails me. Do not hide your face from me, lest I become like those descending to the pit.

8 At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust. Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me, LORD, from my foes, for in you I hope.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.

11 For your name’s sake, LORD, give me life; in your justice lead me out of distress.

12 In your kindness put an end to my foes; destroy all who attack me, for I am your servant. Psalm

1 thought on “The Seven Penitential Psalms

  1. Pingback: January 14th, 2018 – Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Penitential Psalms | St. Peter's Men's Prayer Group

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