The collective psalm finds its life-setting in a national calamity, such as defeat in battle. The structure is similar to that of an individual lament: cry for help, description of distress and request, and the motifs for God’s intervention. Some of these psalms are: Psalms 3, 4, 7, 10, 13, 69 and many others—46, 73, 78, 79, 82, 88, 105, 136.
2 How many are my foes, LORD! How many rise against me!
3 How many say of me, “God will not save that one.”
4 But you, LORD, are a shield around me; my glory, you keep my head high.
5 Whenever I cried out to the LORD, I was answered from the holy mountain.
2 Hear my words, O LORD; listen to my sighing.
3 Hear my cry for help, my king, my God! To you I pray, O LORD;
4 At dawn you will hear my cry; at dawn I will plead before you and wait.
5 You are not a god who delights in evil; no wicked person finds refuge with you;
2 LORD my God, in you I take refuge; rescue me; save me from all who pursue me,
3 Lest they maul me like lions, tear me to pieces with none to save.
1 Why, LORD, do you stand at a distance and pay no heed to these troubled times?
2 Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor; they trap them by their cunning schemes.
12 Rise up, LORD God! Raise your arm! Do not forget the poor!
13 Why should the wicked scorn God, say in their hearts, “God doesn't care?”
2 How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?
3 How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
4 Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God! Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
5 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,” lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.
6 I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, that I may sing of the LORD,
7 “How good our God has been to me!”
2 Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck.
3 I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the water depths; the flood overwhelms me.
4 I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched.
5 My eyes have failed, looking for my God.
1 O Lord, listen to my prayer
2 and let my cry for help reach you.
3 Do not hide from me
4 in the day of my distress.
5 Turn your ear towards me
6 and answer me quickly when I call.
To Whom Shall We Go?
In times of trouble, the psalms of complaint bring a consolation unique in all religious poetry. Of course, the other psalms contain sentiments of soaring praise and thanksgiving, a treasury to be sure. It must be said however, that we humans are prone to complain. Thus, praying these psalms will put us in our place where we belong—in the strong and protective arms of God. There, without airs and without contingency, we can weep and whine, kick and scream to our hearts’ content.