This morning as I prayed, I prayed Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. Both Psalms emphasize the kingship of God’s anointed Son. As I prayed, my eyes opened to the reality of the majesty of Jesus Christ in a way that I believe will be just what I need today. This experience has become a common occurrence for me. It describes something of the shift I have seen in my daily walk with God since I began praying the Psalms. In this post, I would like to highlight three ways that shift has happened.
Praying the Psalms has increased the variety of my prayer life. It has expanded my spiritual vocabulary in a way that has allowed me to escape the routine, the default and the trite in my prayers. Doesn’t that seem a bit ironic? The disciplined practiced of reading aloud words that I didn’t think of or write has not led to rote, monotonous recitation. It has done exactly the opposite. This is the parable of liturgy. It allows us to cash in the treasures of centuries of the experiences of God’s people. It frees us from the limitations of our own thoughts, our own words and our own experiences. Praying the Psalms has added new categories to my time with God. Depending on the day, it has brought celebration, lament, remembrance, desperation and awe into my time in God’s presence in ways that I could never generate out of my own mental resources. The best way I know how to describe it is that I have become more well-rounded in my prayer life.
Praying the Psalms has made me more honest in God’s presence. For many of us, we tend to labor under the delusion that there are just things that we can’t say to God. Right now, I am walking through a time of job transition and that brings a specific set of feelings and thoughts with it. There are moments and days that I feel alternatively, uncertain, hopeful, angry, fearful, excited or confused. The Psalms contain language that express all of these things and more. As I pray the Psalms I express all of these things to God in ways that I didn’t before. I’ve asked God where He is in the middle of hard times, why things are taking so long to resolve and why things have happened in the first place. I’ve also confessed my faults, my lack of faith and wrestled with my own tendency to make the same mistakes over and over. And I’ve thanked God for His blessings, praised Him for the many ways that He has helped me in the past and expressed trust that He will take care of me today and into the future. The Psalms make sure that I don’t avoid the tough questions or wrestle with confusing experiences. They help me not to hide from His presence.
Praying the Psalms pull me out of myself. It shows me that my struggles are not unique. For centuries God’s people have fought the same battles that I am fighting today. And as a result, I know that I am not alone. It helps me to realize that others are finding themselves in the same struggle that I am experiencing. The more I engage these experiences in prayer, with the people of God from times past, the more likely I have found myself to reach out to others for help and support. God did not intend us to walk out this life in Christ alone. He wants us to live it out in the community of others who are walking down the same road. The Psalms were written to be both individual and communal prayers. It is impossible to engage these prayers as an individual and not feel the tug toward community.
I have written these past few posts about praying the Psalms to encourage each of you to step into this ancient practice. My hope is that as you do, you will experience some of the same life-changing shifts that I have. In the final post in this series (which will be forthcoming a bit later this week), I will offer a resources on how to get started.