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.
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?
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!