Praying the Psalms: Psalm 31

In this psalm King David pleads for help and then he trusts in God's great mercy. He shows us how to let go in life and let God in.

Wood carving of Christ's hand nailed to the cross
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Psalm 31 Father, I put my life in your hands.

In you, O Lord, I take refuge let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, oh my faithful Lord.
In your hands I commend my Spirit.

For all your foes reproach me; all my friends are now put to flight
I am forgotten like the unremembered dead,
Like a dish that now is broken.

I place my trust in you Lord; in your hands is my destiny.
Let your face shine upon your servant Lord,
In your hands I will place my life.

© 1983 Marty Haugen GIA Publications

Father, I put my life into your hands by Marty Haugen –

Psalm 31

This is a psalm that most commentators seem to agree arises out of a period when David, is fleeing for his life from the jealousy of King Saul. The first part of the psalm is a plea for help. The second outlines the terrible mess that the psalmist finds himself and in the third verse is the total trusting that the psalmist has in the Lord. We hear this psalm in Church on Good Friday. In that context the words seem to mirror the last words of Jesus on the Cross, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’. ‘Father’ is the only additional word to the original psalm. Although David’s plea is for life not death, he is pleading for help, Jesus on the other hand is offering up his spirit to God that he might die but ultimately live, through be resurrected from the dead.


The words of the psalm are deeply poignant. At some point in our life we will all have to ‘give up the spirit’. All of us without exception have to hand everything over to God and to trust in the mercy that God has to give us. But there are other occasions when we might pray this psalm. I remember a time in my childhood when my father was very ill. As a child I didn’t really understand how serious it was but I do remember my mother standing by the window for a long period of time staring out into the distance. In my curiosity I wondered what she was doing, why she was not with my father or doing something! When I asked her, she very simply and very quietly said, ‘I am handing it over to God’. Did I understand? No, I don’t think I did but, and when years later I heard this psalm one Good Friday, I remembered her words and suddenly it all made sense. At that point in my mother’s pain and fear that we were going to lose my father, she trusted in the Lord and allowed God to rescue her and give her refuge. Her quiet faith that God would deal with things was not in vain. My father did recover.

There can be many occasions in our life when having tried all else we have to hand ourselves and our future over to God. Sometimes these are small and apparently insignificant moments of letting God take care of us, and on other occasions it may be the bigger moments in our lives, when we lose our job or our home. It can also be when we are having to let our children leave home, set off on their own path and we are fearful for them.

Each Good Friday when I sing this psalm I do so remembering the great letting go that Jesus did for our sake. He was young, he had everything to live for and yet he know he had more to die for. I also remember the need I have to let go and to trust God far more than I do. My self-willed spirit does occasionally need taming, it needs releasing so that God can work in and through me. Letting go is never easy but it is life giving. It does bring for us resurrection.


What is your experience of handing over everything to God?

Do you resist the idea of doing this?

Do you trust the idea that God wants to free us from our burdens?