Praying the Psalms- Uh-oh! This is hard!

This is Hard- Darth Vader

If you started with me in our challenge to Pray through the Psalms for Lent, then we are one week into our journey!

And I don’t know about you, but if you are like me, you are probably thinking:  Praying the Psalms is hard!

It’s been challenging for me to develop of rhythm of praying the Psalms each day, especially in the evening— sometimes, I am too tired; sometimes I just forget!  Often, I find myself reading just one Psalm and concentrating on that, instead of all three prescribed for the day.  (And I have decided, that’s okay!)

Sometimes, the Psalms themselves are just plain difficult— like when they appeal to God’s wrath or seek God’s vengeance upon one’s enemies.  What happened to love your neighbor?  Or, as Jesus challenges us, “Love even your enemies.”  Or, what about the times when the Psalmist refers to other people as “heathens.”  Does anyone even use that word any more?   Aren’t we all God’s children?

How does one reconcile this view of an angry, vengeful God, and the desire to wipe out one’s enemies, with the God of love and grace we know in Jesus Christ?  How do we justify praying for God’s wrath to fall upon others?

Yet, maybe that’s point.

Not that God is mean and angry and vengeful, (the overarching theme of the Psalms is that “the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”) but rather it causes me to consider different aspects of God, aspects of God with which I may not be familiar or comfortable.  The Psalms again and again point to the wonder and mystery of God, a God who is beyond our understanding.

When we pray the Psalms (instead of always relying on our own words or thoughts and ideas) we are challenged and stretched in our understanding of who God is.

In our study “Invitation to Psalms” by Michael Jinkins, Jinkins quotes Eugene Peterson.

Peterson writes, “…We don’t always like what God speaks to us, and we don’t always understand it.  Left to ourselves, we will pray to some god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God that we manage to understand.  But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything God speaks to us, and in our speaking, …[we] mature in the great art of conversation with God that is prayer.”

Jinkins adds:  “The Palms as prayers respond to the Word who is God, and in their response the Psalms become the Word of God to us.  Praying the Psalms draws us into this profound and rich conversation [with God].”

In other words, Praying the Psalms invite us into a deep, intimate encounter with the living God.  Praying the Psalms allows God to shape us, rather than the other way around.

Many of you know that I enjoy backpacking.  Usually, somewhere on a backpacking trip— whether it’s hiking up a steep mountain trail or slogging through the rain— I turn to my hiking companions and remind them that we don’t go backpacking because it’s easy.  We go backpacking because it’s hard.

Backpacking Pic- Jim

There is great satisfaction in facing and overcoming a difficult challenge, and there are valuable lessons to be learned along the way.

The same is true for our challenge to Pray the Psalms together.  We undertake this challenge not because it’s easy, but because it is hard.

Along the way, will we allow God’s word to transform us?

Journeying Together,

Jim

 

P.S.  We would love to hear your thoughts and reflections as we read and pray the Psalms together.  Please post a comment.  We would love to hear from you!

 

Advertisements

Why Pray?

Psalm 62 Pic

Psalm 62:1 says:

“For God alone my soul waits in silence…”

That’s kind of the point of this challenge to pray the Psalms together.

It is to sit silently before God, to reflect on God’s word, and to create a space where we might enter into the presence of God.

Did you know?  People who spend 30 minutes each day in silent meditation have lower blood pressure, are more focused, feel less anxious, and report having a greater connection to God throughout the day.

Last April, I (Jim) attended an intense spiritual retreat for men called “Men’s Rites of Passage,” based on the writings of Richard Rohr.  It was a powerful experience for me.  While on the retreat, we were encouraged to begin each day in “contemplative sit,” just simply sitting in silence before God for at least 20 minutes.  We were challenged to continue this practice after we returned home.

So, for the past (almost) year, I have been trying to do just that— begin each day in 20 minutes of silent prayer and meditation— not so much speaking my requests to God, but rather opening my heart to God’s presence and listening for God’s voice speaking to me.

It has changed my life!  (Jaime says mediation actually re-wires your brain.  Apparently, she read it in a book.)  Through meditation, I am able to lay down the worries and stress that creep into each day.  It enables me to climb “onto the balcony” and look at things more objectively.  It reminds me that no matter what challenges I may be facing, God is always with me.

Perhaps most importantly, it helps me to think of God more deeply and look at others differently.  It reminds me that I am a beloved child of God, and it helps me to see the light of God’s love shining in others, no matter what challenges they may be facing or wounds that they are carrying.  While I do not do it perfectly, this practice of mediation has changed the way I look at the world and changed the way I do ministry.

We invite you to join us in this endeavor as we seek to read the Psalms and practice silent mediation for at least 20 minutes each day.

(For a great lesson on silent meditation and centering prayer, go to http://www.theliturgists.com .  Click on the tab for “Vapor,” the meditation we did for Ash Wednesday, and scroll to the bottom of the page.  Click on the link for “Centering Prayer.”)

Praying the Psalms  Our hope is to have everyone at St. Thomas (and friends!) praying the Psalms each day, 1-2 Psalms each morning and 1-2 Psalms each night.

Won’t you join us?

The schedule for this week is:

  • Feb. 14 – Morning, Psalms 71-71; Evening, Psalms 73-74
  • Feb. 15 – Morning, Psalms 75-77; Evening, Psalms 78
  • Feb. 16 – Morning, Psalms 79-81; Evening, Psalms 82-85
  • Feb. 17 – Morning, Psalms 86-88; Evening, Psalm 89
  • Feb. 18 – Morning, Psalms 90-92; Evening, Psalms 93-94
  • Feb. 19 – Morning, Psalms 95-97; Evening, Psalms 98-101
  • Feb. 20 – Morning, Psalms 102-103; Evening Psalm 104
  • Feb. 21 – Morning, Psalm 105; Evening, Psalm 106

(You can get the full schedule for Lent by contacting the church office at saint.thomas1@comcast.net)

If you can read only one Psalm, or part of it, each day— or if you miss a day— that’s okay!  The idea is to begin a habit that frames each day in the practice of prayer.

If you decide to accept this challenge and pray the Psalms, let us know!  Leave a comment and let us know you’re in.  Also, we encourage you to post your thoughts and reflections as we pray the Psalms together!

Journeying Together,

Pastors Jim and Jaime

Praying the Psalms

As the Deer- by stream

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God…”

The Psalms reveal a deep longing and thirst for an experience of the living God, a longing that I think many of us can relate to.

This year for Lent we are encouraging everyone at St. Thomas to pray through the Psalms as our Lenten devotional.  Our goal is to have everyone at the church praying the same Psalms each day!

For those who would like to get a head start, here are the readings for this week:

  • Feb. 11- Morning Psalms 56-58; Evening Psalms 59-61
  • Feb. 12- Morning Psalms 62-64; Evening Psalms 65-67
  • Feb. 13- Morning Psalm 68; Evening Psalms 69-70
  • Feb. 14- Morning Psalms 71-72; Evening Psalms 73-74

Our hope is to read two to three Psalms each morning, and two to three Psalms each night.  It’s okay to start small and just select one Psalm to read each day.  The idea is to begin a practice that produces a natural rhythm in one’s life, framing each day in prayer and the praise of God.

If you miss a day, that’s okay too!  You don’t have to go back and read the Psalms you’ve missed.  Just start again for the prescribed reading for the day.

We will passing out the full schedule in church this Sunday, or you contact us and we’ll be happy to send the schedule to you.  Read a little further; here is my reflection on today’s Psalm.

Psalm 56- rocks

 Today’s reading: Psalm 56

This morning, I read and prayed Psalm 56.

While it is a Psalm of deep lament, the verse that stood out for me was:

“This I know, that God is for me.”

This verse touched my heart and grabbed my attention.  “God is for me.”

Did you hear that?  “God is for you.”

God is on our side!  God desires goodness for our lives.  God longs to bestow God’s love and grace upon us.

This has become my centering prayer for the day:

Inhale:  “This I know…”

Exhale:  “God is for me.”

Praise God!  These words are beyond my imagination to fully understand.

Will I live out this truth today?

May God bless you in your journey of faith today and always!

What is Lent?

Lent Cross

This Wednesday, February 10, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

So, what exactly is Lent?

Lent is the time of year on the church calendar that Christians prepare spiritually for Easter. It is a time that Christians reflect on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, to the cross and his death on Good Friday, and ultimately to Easter Sunday, the celebration of his glorious resurrection. Christ’s resurrection on that first Easter morning transformed the world, and continues to transform lives today.

Lent helps us to reflect on Christ’s great sacrifice and love shown on the cross.

Traditionally, it is a time of self-examination and penitence (seeking forgiveness).

It is a time of sacrifice, giving things up so that we might more fully focus on God.

And it’s a time of renewed commitment to spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Bible study, worship, and service.

This year at St. Thomas, we are planning a new series for Lent called: “Learning How to Pray: An Invitation to Psalms.” We will be looking at the book of Psalms each Sunday in worship as we consider what it means to pray and how we might more fully connect to the power, peace, and presence of God transforming our lives today.

Small group Bible studies are also now forming, and we invite you to consider joining a group for those who want to go deeper into God’s word and this study of Psalms. You can sign up for a small group by going to our website: http://www.stthomaspres.com

Also, did you know that the sanctuary of St. Thomas is open every Wednesday morning from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. for a time of quiet prayer?

As a part of our Lenten emphasis on prayer, Pastor Jim will be leading a time of contemplative prayer each Wednesday morning from 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. We invite you to join us for this time of guided prayer as we seek to pray the Psalms together.

May you have a holy Lent this year!