Reading, studying, and writing for the people of St. Alban’s has been a great joy. Every time I teach or preach or try to offer a wise word, somebody has the guts to challenge me. I don’t find this intimidating; rather, I believe that it is the Spirit moving and inspiring the people of this church to a greater and deeper knowledge of the Lord.
My next teaching series is covering the psalms. Of course, we will not cover every psalm (there are 150 psalms!), but we will encounter every human emotion. Therein lies the beauty of the psalms; they give us a voice to celebrate, mourn, and pray.
For example, when we are cheerful we may say, “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1). Or, when you are feeling alone, you may cry out with the words of Psalm 88, “My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion.” Speaking personally, whenever I come across something beautiful – a sunrise, a magnificent tree, a holy conversation with a friend – I burst out with the words of Psalm 95, “Come let us sing to the Lord, let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation!”
We can feel frustrated, content, angry, inconsolable, joyful, quiet, peaceful, or scared and still find a psalm that speaks for us. We need to count this as a blessing. The Lord does not always expect us to conjure up our own words for prayer, perfectly good words have already been provided for us in the psalms.
Noted Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it this way: “As an act of prayer, the psalms witness to the ways in which this community has always prayed, from its first ‘belief-ful’ utterance until our own practice of the same speech as an act of prayer. The community uses, reuses, and rereuses these same words because the words are known to be adequate and because we have no better words to utter” (The Psalms and the Life of Faith, 33).
Just as you have challenged me, I now issue a challenge to you. I challenge you to read one psalm a day. Let the words of these ancient prayers become your words. Join with Christians throughout the ages who have read, recited, said, chanted, and sung the psalms as part of their devotion to our Lord.
If you don’t know where to begin taking on this challenge of mine, there are a couple of places that you can start. First, you can always start from the beginning. Beginning with Psalm 1, you can rejoice with those who “are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season.” Or, you may choose to read the psalm appointed for the day in the Daily Office. This schedule begins on page 934 of the Book of Common Prayer. Or, if you are tech savvy, you can download the Daily Office iPhone app produced by Mission St. Clare!
It doesn’t matter how you pray with the psalms – I just ask you to pray with the psalms!
“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; young men and maidens, old and young together. Let them praise the Name of the Lord!”