Praying Psalm 16:1 on Behalf of Animals

By a PETA staffer

“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.”

The above excerpt from Psalm 16 is a short prayer we might use on behalf of animals.

Short prayers are used by many in practicing what is often called “mental prayer”—which is contemplative, affective prayer of a few words. One widely loved prayer in this genre is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Short prayers such as this convey rich theological truths and the deepest longings of the supplicant’s heart in a few powerful words. They are repeated to open—and refocus—periods of quiet, private prayer.

We won’t delve into the fascinating question of whether other animals “pray” in some way, but it’s clear that they need good things from God and that we can intercede with Him and request those things for them—as we do for our human brothers and sisters.

Looking around, it’s hard to miss that countless animals face immense stress and danger. A dog chained to a tree for yet another night longs for relief from the extreme heat or cold, from the loneliness, from the never-ending hunger for food and attention. Cows deemed useless by the dairy industry because their exhausted bodies no longer produce enough milk and packed into a barren steel trailer hurtling down the highway to the slaughterhouse surely feel confusion, fear, and something like a desire for assurance, safety, or anything like comfort or calm. A smaller, submissive monkey warehoused with a dozen larger, dominant animals in a severely crowded pen is always looking over their shoulder, on guard against the moves of their equally stressed fellow prisoners, wondering if it will ever be possible to breathe a sigh of relief.

We all work tirelessly for these and all suffering animals—to improve their lives and prevent more of them from enduring similar fates. We labor to bring them to safety and give as many as possible a sense of security and freedom from (further) harm.

And yet there are those we will never personally reach—those beyond the grasp of any caring hand, whose lives will end before we or others can comfort them. And particularly for those animals, to raise our heart and voice to God, in whatever way we feel most comfortable, with the cry, “Keep me safe, O God,” is an effective prayer on their behalf.

sad and scared monkey's fact behind the bars of a cage

It’s just as clear that animals need all the hope they can get. The work of animal advocates like you generates it in vast measures—hope that one day they’ll be off that chain and inside with a loving family, hope that they won’t be forcibly torn away from their calves and will instead be given the chance to enjoy life on grass, hope that one day they’ll no longer be seen as test tubes with tails and will instead be recognized as intelligent individuals with their own God-granted purpose that’s beyond human comprehension.

The hope we bring about for animals comes from our Creator—who instilled in us the love, commitment to justice, and talents we bring to advocacy. And as we draw on God for our own hope—in the life of the world to come—may we also praise Him, on animals’ behalf, for the hope in a new creation He offers them. For He is all our hope.

So let us hold animals in our hearts as we quietly repeat, “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope,” and follow where the Holy Spirit leads our prayer and daily work.

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