Reading Psalm 88 as we did at Morning Prayer today always transports me to the pit under the High Priest’s house in Jerusalem, where it is believed that Jesus spent the night after his arrest and before his trial before Pilate the next morning leading to his crucifixion.
It is read by pilgrims in this prison carved from the rock, below ground level. Today the pit, for that is what the prison room is, has access provided by steps and there is a good sized opening and electric lighting. But the wording of the psalm, read with the thought of this confined room in mind, and it being on the lips of a prisoner in what must have been a fearful place, brings the psalm very much to life and the realisation of how psychological torture is so effective in instilling fear into a captive.
These techniques we know are much employed today as in every age of human history. Physical pain coupled with mental anguish is dreadful. We are grateful to organisations, such as Amnesty International, that attempt to bring regimes to account for the way in which prisoners are held captive and made to give information or renounce their beliefs. The effectiveness of the psalms is demonstrated by this particularly striking example as well.