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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Veterans - Psalms and Prayers

These psalms and prayers are provided as many voices are calling for the church to be a significant partner in the complex readjustment process of returning home for military veterans.

The Psalms for Those Under Stress

These Psalm selections have been carefully chosen in four categories. The candor, honesty, pain and earthiness of the Psalms can provide rich spiritual nurture for a troubled heart.

Section One The Blessings from God”  
Section Two Cries for Help” 
Section Three God Our Refuge” 
Section Four Testimonies of God’s Care” 

The Psalms are unique in Scripture because they both speak to us and for us. At times they are the voice of God speaking to our spirit. At other times they are our own voices speaking to God and others with words that we cannot find within ourselves at the moment.

Those who wrote the Psalms were certainly inspired by the Spirit of God. But they were also shaped by the stresses of life. We listen to them and find they were conscious of their own failures, frightened by the threats of their enemies, discouraged because of calamities that had happened to them, feeling very fragile and mortal, and, in general, very conscious of their own inadequacies before the demands of life. In this state of mind and heart, we hear them calling to God for help, holding to his promises in spite of their circumstances, and being very honest.

In our times of stress, we find the Psalmists to be our personal companions. They seem to understand us like no one else. They give us the promises we need to hear. They become the voice we need to find.

In these readings, four types of Psalm passages are provided. In Section One, we hear blessings spoken and called for reminding us of how rich we are even when we may not feel like we are experiencing it. In Section Two we cry to God in earthy and painful words, calling for God's attention and help. We learn to be candid, honest, and blunt with God. In Section Three we join others in reminding ourselves of the security and safety we find in God when all of life seems so turbulent around us. In Section Four we gain strength from the testimonies of others who speak freely of the care of God they have received in their time of need.

Savor each line. Aim not to read a lot; instead aim to read deeply!

Prayers for use by those who are hurting

Prayer of a VA Chaplain for those with PTSD:
O Lord, many of us have tears deep inside of our lives, because we’ve been hurt in ways that go to the very core of our being, and some of the hurts we carry around have been there for a long, long time – even for years. We experienced a loss from which even today we have not really recovered. We took a beating that ripped into our heart and soul and tore us apart at the deepest place in our life. We went through the betrayal of a trust, the betrayal of a friendship, and still today we find ourselves dealing with its aftereffects and its residue. We suffered the unforgivable at the hands of a parent or the hands of someone we loved, and there’s a scar there that breaks open over and over again.

Sometimes our tears come up and get very close to the surface. We can feel them just behind our eyes or even in our eyes. Sometimes they form a big lump in our throat. And then we realize again that they haven’t gone away at all, that they’re still there, that they’ve just been buried for awhile and now are back to make themselves known again.

O God, you are the one who looks way down deep inside of all of us. You see and know what no one knows, no one at all except we ourselves. And, not only do you see us and know us, but you also feel things along with us, even the very painful stuff, the deep stuff along with us, and we feel a strange kind of healing taking place. For it’s like you care and you understand…and we’re no longer left alone with our burdens.

Today, those of us who are struggling inside – who’ve been broken and hurt and still feel the tears within – we thank you for being there and sharing with us what we cannot bear alone.

-Chaplain Richard A. Lutz, “Prayers of the VA Chaplaincy,” Department of Veterans Affairs, Hampton, Virginia, at their 12th Annual Chiefs’ Convocation, Washington, D.C., December 6-9, 1997. Permission pending.

On Peace and War

We are aware, acutely aware in your presence,
    of the grind of tanks,
    of the blast of mines hidden against human flesh,
    of the rat-tat-tat of sniper fire.

We are aware of the stench of death,
    bodies of our own military women and men,
    bodies of countless Iraqis,
       and the smell makes us shiver.

Such smells and sounds are remote from us,
    but not remote from us are bewilderment,
                                               and anxiety, and

We are bewildered,
    whether we are liberators or invaders,
    whether they are terrorists or freedom fighters,
    whether we should yearn for peace or savor victory.

The world has become so strange,
    and our place in it so tenuous,
    where gray seems clearer than the white purity of our hopes,
             or the darkness of our deathly passions.
       There is so little agreement among us,
       perhaps so little truth among us,
       so little, good Lord, that we scarcely know how to pray,
                                 or for what to pray.

We do know, however, to whom we pray!
We pray to you, creator God, who wills the world good;
We pray to you, redeemer God, who makes all things new.
We pray to you, stirring Spirit, healer of the nations.
We pray for guidance,
And before that, we pray in repentance,
       for too much wanting the world on our own terms.

We pray for your powerful mercy,
    to put the world – and us – in a new way,
       a way after Jesus who gave himself,
       a way after Jesus who confounded the authorities and
             who lived more excellently.

Whelm us by your newness, by peace on your terms –
       the newness you have promised,
       of which we have seen glimpses in your Son
                       who is our Lord.

-Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008), pp. 65-66. Used by permission.

Victims…and Perpetrators
         On reading Jeremiah 50-51

Mighty God, giver of Peace, slogan for war,
    We watch while cities burn and
                            children cry and
                            women weep.
    We listen while tanks roll and
                            missiles zizzle, and
                            mobs assemble.
    We smell while
                       flesh burns and
                       old tires smoke and
                       oil wells flame
                                 out of control.

We dare say,
we dare imagine,
we dare confess, that yours in the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.
                            We come to you as victims of terror and
                                mass death.
                            We come as perpetrators of death and massacre.
                            We come as citizens and patriots and taxpayers
                                    and parents and children.
                            We come bewildered, angry, sorry.

You, you beyond the smell and the din and the smoke.
You, beyond our hopes and our hates.
You, our beginning before time
    our end beyond time.
Be present in ways we cannot imagine.
Be present – save us from our power
                    save us from our violence,
                    save us from our fear and hatred,
                    save us as only you can do.
                    Save us as you have before saved us…
    in love and power
    in compassion and justice
    in miracle and in waiting.
                    Save us because we are your people
                        and because this is your world.

-Walter Brueggemann,Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008), pp. 67-68. Used by permission.

Devotional Books

A Call to Prayer for a Nation at War: Prayers of Blessing and Protection for Those Who Serve, (White Stone Books, 2003)
More than 40 meaningful prayers are provided for a variety of circumstances.

Proven Promises, Howard Vanderwell (email Howard for a copy)
This booklet of 50 biblical devotionals was originally written for those who suffer from cancer, but has proven to be equally meaningful for all those who walk through the valleys of life.

Prayers for a Privileged People, Walter Brueggemann (Abingdon Press, 2008) 

In Brueggemann’s own creative way, he has written a book of context-specific prayers which call us to “align ourselves with the Easter power of God that surges among us and invites us to a different way in the world.”