Be Merciful Unto Me: A Response To Psalm 41

After the ‘new song’ of psalm 40 we find ourselves once more grappling, in psalm 41 with feeling after God and finding him in the midst of suffering. In many ways the psalm, which seems to have been written in the midst of both physical illness and personal betrayal, speaks deeply into our own times, as it speaks of the Lord comforting us and making our bed in our sickness. And for Christian readers of course it has that sharp moment that seems to prophecy the intimate pain of Christ’s betrayal by Judas:

Yea, even mine own familiar friend, whom I trusted: who did also eat of my bread, hath laid great wait for me.

And yet the psalmist, even as he cries for mercy, recovers and closes the psalm with a glimpse of the beatific vision and the sheer blessing and glory of God’s eternal presence:

And when I am in my health, thou upholdest me: and shalt set me before thy face for ever.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: world without end. Amen.

Here is my poetic response to the psalm. As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XLI Beatus qui intelligit

That you might make me whole in every part,

Have mercy on me now. Oh raise me up

And comfort me when things just fall apart.


For you have known this too: the grip and grope

Of suffering, the time when comforts fail,

The false pretence of friendship, the false hope


Of some relief, the sense of being frail,

Of being helpless, wounded, vulnerable

And worst of all the sickening betrayal


By those we thought were closest. Miserable

Dependence on the ones who’ve lost our trust

What can I do but cry ‘be merciful


Be merciful and raise me from the dust

Restore my health, because I cry to you,

You are my heart’s desire from first to last’


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Filed under christianity, Poems

8 responses to “Be Merciful Unto Me: A Response To Psalm 41


    Right from the very start a moving and modern Davidic pslamist tone pulls your heart right into the funk of sorrowful pain…but there’s also this dramatic Shakespearean quality present…the rhythm and pace, a soliloquy-like confessional and inner dialogue that jumps, jolts and pauses, then implores loudly for mercy…this indeed reads very well aloud and, I suspect, might warrant an Act III!

  2. malcolmguite

    Thanks Rosie I empathise with your struggles you can email me on

  3. lynndmorrissey

    This poem means a lot to me, because my vertigo came on suddenly June 29th and has not abated. More tests in store this week. All I can do is cry out “Mercy” to Him who is Mercy and Goodness and Savior. He knows my “dustedness,” and my dizziness. Yes, mercy, Lord.

  4. Barbara Parry

    The psalmist is asking to be like the “green man”, that when cut down he will rise up again?

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