Psalm 31 (Psalms on the Trail)

Into your hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit. Psalm 31:5

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth. Psalm 31:5

By the time night was descending, I was in my tent, tucked under the quilt reading my last psalm for the day by the light of the headlamp.  I might jot down a few notes about the day in my tiny journal before I would turn off the lamp, placing it in easy reach for any middle of the night need.  Then I would softly hum (my trail name is “humming turtle”) a fragment of Night Prayer that our choir sang from our hymnal after every rehearsal one year: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”  It was the prayer Jesus moaned on the cross, the prayer Stephen lifted up at his stoning, and the only prayer a weary backpacker could manage before an aching body sank into sleep.

 One of the things I missed the most on the trail, besides my husband and family, was hearing beautiful music—unless you want to count what the owls, whippoorwills, and bobcats were doing.  With all due respect to wilderness sounds, I still longed to hear a beautiful anthem like this one linked below, composed by a 16th century musician based on Psalm 31:5 and containing the very same chant I tried to hum alone in my tent.  You can hear fragments of this simple chant a few times when the men in the choir sing it by themselves.  My humming of this ancient night prayer not only connected me with beautiful music at a distance, but with generations of people who have prayed this prayer at night with weary bodies. (“In manus tuas” is Latin for “into your hands.”)  Please listen.  Sometimes music goes where photos cannot.

“In Tua Manus” by John Sheppard, sung by the Cambridge Singers


1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder? What is your last prayer at night?

2. Or read all of Psalm 31 to discover how this verse fits into the psalm or to discover a different verse.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that illustrates this verse’s meaning for you.

Tomorrow’s verse is from Psalm 32:1.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.