De profundis.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 July

The prayer known as de profundis deɪ proʊ'fun.dis, commonly deɪ prə'fən.dɪs is also known as Psalm 130 in Jewish and Protestant bibles, and 129 in Orthodox and Catholic bibles. The Latin name comes from verse 1 in the Vulgate: De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine, “From the deep I call to you, Lord.”

My translation doesn’t rhyme this time, but it’s still in iambic septemeter.

Psalm 130 KWL
0 Song for the climb.
1 I call you from the deep, oh LORD. 2 My Master, hear my voice!
Your ears must pay attention to my supplications’ voice!
3 If you kept track of moral faults, my Master, who could stand?
4 But with you there’s forgiveness. For this reason, you’re revered.
5 I wait—my life waits—for the LORD; my hope is in his word.
6 My life awaits my Master like a night guard waits for dawn.
Like night guards wait for dawn… 7 so Israel: Wait for the LORD!
For with the LORD is love, and much redemption comes with him.
8 He will redeem you, Israel, from all your moral faults.

Connected to the Hebrew idea of waiting is the idea of hope. You’re waiting for God ’cause you expect him to do something. Like answer your prayer in some way.

In Christian tradition, De profundis is a common rote prayer. A lot of Christians pray the psalms, but this one’s frequently found in the prayer books of many denominations. Mainly because it shows a certain amount of repentance, and its hope in God’s grace and dependable love.

As indicated in verse 0, “Song for the climb,” this is an ascent psalm, one of the songs the ancient Hebrews would sing on the way to temple. Jerusalem is at a higher elevation than most of Israel, so the journey’s uphill… so it’s an ascent. It’s why the scriptures always describe people as going “up to Jerusalem,” regardless of whether they’re going west, north, or south.

But no, it’s not so much about climbing. It’s about going to temple to worship the LORD, so along the way it’s a good idea to get in the right head space. Are you ready for worship? Get ready: Sing an ascent psalm. It’s basically pre-worship worship.

And in this worship, we’re reminded grace and redemption aren’t just New Testament ideas. They reflect God’s attitude from the very beginning: He always wanted a relationship with his people, and wanted to get our sins out of the way so he could have it. It’s a regular reminder of how God forgives—and for that reason, a useful thing to pray.