Praying the Psalms

Notable things about the Psalms:

-the Psalms are necessary

-the Psalms are awkward

-the Psalms are a book edited to train us in prayer that is:

comprehensive
honest

Psalm 1

– preparation for prayer by praying our inattention

-gathering our distracted lives and energies into listening attention

Psalm 2

– preparation for prayer by praying our intimidation;

-countering the bullying world that intimidates us into hiding; expanding our vision

Psalm 3

Language:

-the language of personal intimacy and relationship; the language that requires the most from us (emotionally, relationally); the Psalms train us in a conversion of language, from talking about God to talking to God

Story:

“A David Psalm, When He Escaped For His Life From Absalom, His Son”

– prayer is connected by these titles to a world of friends and enemies, sickness and health, song and celebration

-the error of spiritualized prayer: all the dirt and noise of ordinary life is boiled out; it is escapist prayer

Books I, II, III, IV, V – end of Psalms 41, 72, 89, 106, 150

-5 books corresponding to 5 books of the Torah

(Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy)

-the error of presumptuous prayer: speaks to God without first listening to him; we pray in the context of the big story of God’s salvation

Enemies:

-pseudo-prayer as opposed to psalm-prayer

-enters the way-things-are, but finds that the way-things-are is pretty bad! Evil is encountered; wickedness is confronted

-there are harmonies to be experienced in prayer, but they are all achieved harmonies, not natural ones

-people looking for calming, pleasant spiritual experiences don’t pray the Psalms, or at least don’t pray them for very long – the Psalms are full of unsettling talk about and against enemies

Psalms 4 & 5

Rhythm:

Psalm 4, an evening prayer and Psalm 5, a morning prayer; are strategically placed early in our prayer book to establish these fundamental rhythms in our lives and get us praying in the cadence of God’s word; the rhythm of going to sleep and waking up, and prayers formed on these rhythms coordinate the deeply personal with the deep purposes of God as he speaks his love into being in us

-notice: it is first evening prayer, then morning prayer – the order is not reversible – evening prayer is followed, after several hours of unconsciousness, by morning

Psalm 4 – going to sleep can also be an act of faith;

evening prayer is a deliberate act of spirit that cultivates willingly what our bodies force on us finally

Psalm 5 – prays our re-entry into the waking world’s

daylight; when we open our eyes, the day is half-over; while we have been sleeping, God has been working; we open our eyes and see what he has brought out of darkness: light and life

Try to develop the practice of praying one or more psalms daily. When you reach the last one, begin again!