Sheltering Mercy

Prayers Inspired by the Psalms

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Christianity Today 2023 Book Award Finalist (Bible & Devotional)

Sheltering Mercy helps us rediscover the rich treasures of the Psalms--through free-verse prayer renderings of their poems and hymns--as a guide to personal devotion and meditation.

The church has always used the Psalms as part of its prayer life, and they have inspired countless other prayers. This book contains 75 prayers drawn from Psalms 1-75, providing lyrical sketches of what authors Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt have seen, heard, and felt while sojourning in the Psalms. While each prayer corresponds to a particular psalm and touches on its themes and ideas, it is not a new translation of the Psalms or an attempt to modernize or contextualize their content or language. Rather, the prayers are responses to the Psalms written in harmony with Scripture. These prayers help us quiet our hearts before God and welcome us into a safe place amid the storms of life.

This artful, poetic, and classic devotional book features compelling custom illustrations and beautiful hardcover binding, offering a fresh way to reflect on and pray the Psalms.


"Psalm-praying is one of the oldest and most powerful ways of learning to talk to God. Yet the words of the Psalms are distant from us, and Christians are not always sure how to make those ancient words our words. Smith and Wilt provide in this book the kindling for our own Psalm-praying, provoking our response and forming the word of God in our mouths. Pray the words of Scripture and then let their words spark your imagination and slow you down enough to learn the grammar of intimacy with God."

Glenn Packiam, author of The Resilient Pastor and Blessed Broken Given

"Like a modern-day version of the beloved Valley of Vision, Sheltering Mercy is a collection of poems inspired by the Psalms. This small, beautiful book holds timeless reminders of God's enduring promises."

Sandra McCracken, singer-songwriter

"This beautiful collection of psalms expressed as poetic prayer reminds us of the relevance of reverence in our daily lives and the hope breathed through even the darkest of sufferings. Alight on a different poem each day, and find rest in its cadence, restoration in its celebration, and guidance from new songs grown from deep-rooted wisdom."

Carolyn Weber, author of Surprised by Oxford and Holy Is the Day

"Over the course of my career, I've spent countless hours laboring over vocal harmonies. There's something beautiful about hearing different, complementary (or consonant) notes at the same time. The prayers in Sheltering Mercy produce a similar result. They harmonize with the text of Scripture and make it come alive in a whole new way."

Michael W. Smith, singer-songwriter

"The Psalms have been the headwaters of great English poetry and prayer since they first began to be translated, molding poets from Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert, and Gerard Manley Hopkins all the way down to Johnny Cash and Bono. The Psalms get down into the mud of sorrow and lift the broken up into hope and joy, which is why they birthed gospel music and the blues. They will always inspire, and they will never be used up. Sheltering Mercy is yet another faithful child of the Psalms, a beautiful collection of poems arriving at a dark moment, poems unafraid of sorrow and brokenness, delivering hope and joy."

N. D. Wilson, author of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl and Death by Living

"Reading the Psalms is a very good thing to do. Singing the Psalms is even better. But best of all is when we pray the Psalms. For millennia believers have used the Psalms as a school of prayer, as a model for prayer, and as a springboard to prayer. This beautifully crafted rendering of the Psalms gives voice to the cries of our hearts, depth to our intercessions, and breadth to our supplications. Find here refreshment and renewal."

George Grant, Parish Presbyterian Church, Franklin, Tennessee; author of The Blood of the Moon and The Micah Mandate

"The Psalms provide a limitless treasure for the people of God, and this collection shows just how limitless that treasure is. Combining prayer, poetry, and art, it will richly nourish any who want to grow in their sense of the 'sheltering mercy' of God."

Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Research Professor of Theology, Duke University

"These exquisite Psalms-inspired prayers give language to my emotions at a time in history when I often find myself at a loss for words. Thank you, Ryan and Dan, for such an incredibly poetic resource!"

JJ Heller, singer-songwriter

"A targum is the ancient practice of rewriting sacred text in today's vocabulary. Smith and Wilt creatively apply this historic art form to the Psalms for the purpose of renewing these ancestral cries in every human heart."

AJ Sherrill, author of Being with God and The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation

"Praying the Psalms is de facto praying in technicolor. Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt's Psalm-based book of prayers, Sheltering Mercy, enables us to pray them in 3D. The anchoring of these prayers in the text of the Psalms, the authors' rich offering of cross-references to other books in the Hebrew Scriptures, and culminating themes in the New Testament, plus references to treasured Christian spiritual classics content, make this volume an invaluable devotional asset."

Darrell A. Harris, Dean Emeritus of The Chapel, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies

"Sheltering Mercy reads like inspired literature from a friend who is speaking directly to me and my situation. It is filled with a hopefulness that creates a safe space for reflection, one that is so necessary for leaders today."

Eldon Fry, spiritual director, pastoral counselor, educator, and author of Growing Up Idaho and Spiritual Formation: Attention Along the Way

"For centuries Christians have repeated the Psalms, not only as prayer but as a school for prayer. In them we learn the patterns of praise, thanksgiving, and lament. In these eloquent meditations and improvisations on the Psalms, Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt further that education. We are offered a guide to how these ancient songs can become more fully our own and more explicitly connected to the rest of Scripture."

Steven R. Guthrie, Professor of Theology & Religion and the Arts, Belmont University

The Authors

  1. Ryan Whitaker Smith
    Brandon Chesbro

    Ryan Whitaker Smith

    Ryan Whitaker Smith is an author and filmmaker from Nashville, Tennessee. His projects include The Jesus Music, a documentary about the history of contemporary Christian music, and film adaptations of the award-winning memoir Surprised by Oxford...

    Continue reading about Ryan Whitaker Smith

  2. Dan Wilt
    Brandon Chesbro

    Dan Wilt

    Dan Wilt is a songwriter, speaker, educator, and author who has his own teaching ministry in worship and spiritual formation through He has served as a pastor and encourager of creative leaders and has written several devotionals, including A...

    Continue reading about Dan Wilt


Christianity Today 2023 Book Award Finalist (Bible & Devotional)