“The rest of Scripture speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us.” St. Athanasius
What do you think, or know about the Psalms?
/ T H E P S A L M S /
Before creation existed, God was. And before we sought after God, He pursued us. For He created us for relationship. Relationship with Him first, and then relationship with one another (Gen. 1-2)
For this reason, Jewish and Christian prayer has always been seen as a response to God.
Responding to God’s goodness in creating us.
Surprisingly, we find that there is a wide range of tones of speech and emotions presented to us in the Psalms.
Often the language of the Psalms is unsettling and even shocking.
READ - Psalm 109:8 – 13.
The many emotions and words that arise in the various Psalms of praise and thanksgiving, protest and lament, and petition and confession give us freedom in responding to God through prayer and art.
Have you ever considered that your prayers could be unpolished? Raw feelings, emotions, and expressions? Why or why not?
/ P S A L M S A S P R A Y E R /
The Psalms model ways of talking to God that are honest, but not obvious.
They offer a new possibility of prayer – full disclosure.
The enable us to bring into our conversation with God, feelings and thoughts that most of us think we need to get rid of before God will be interested in hearing from us.
The Psalms do not sanctify what is shameful, or give us permission to feel better about the parts of ourselves that do need to change – pride, rage, selfishness, etc.
Instead, they teach us that profound change happens ALWAYS in the presence of God.
When we open our minds and hearts fully to the God who made the Psalms, then we open ourselves to the possibility of being changed beyond our imagining.
/ T H E N P R A Y… /
The Psalms are everywhere in the Christian life – referred throughout the New Testament, quoted even more than the Prophets! We use them in our worship, as we enter into a service. They shape how we usually pray.
When we pray the Psalms we are really listening to what they have to say, listen to what we are saying when we pray them, and this changes our ideas of prayer.
They explode our idea of how we should think and talk when God is around – like hanging out at your Grandparents place with a sibling, and your parents scoff at you for what you are saying, or doing.
/ F A L S E I D E A S W E B E L I E V E /
God does not have any use for our anger – I have to forgive my enemy before I am permitted to pray.
Since we are people of hope, there is no place for despair or fear in the Christian life.
You must never be mad at God.
Prayer doesn't make a different
It is precisely because of ideas like these that many of us do not pray more often, or more deeply.
/ R E A D /
Psalm 39: How often, in prayer, do you really put forward honestly how you are feeling?
As we read the Psalms we are often surprised when we read that the psalmists’ relationship with God is grounded in honesty.
The fact that the Psalms contain expressions of anger, relief, sadness, praise, despair, hope and trust all mixed together reflects the dynamic nature of how God made us (in HIS image).
Honesty - The Psalms model for us what it looks like to come to God in truth at all times with all of who we are.
They teach us how to "come" to God, not by attempting to escape ourselves or our situation, but to come to Him AS ourselves IN our current situation, to find fellowship with Him there.
This kind of honest expression is rarely learned or practiced in our relationships with other human beings.
The temptation for Christians is to reduce dialogue to monologue.
In prayer we do not have a relational discussion.
/ R A D I C A L P S A L M S /
Today in our faith lives, and in our churches, we have deep grooves are worn into our prayers and imagination as a community that make it difficult to break out of such routine prayer-lifestyles.
Praying the Psalms is a God-sanctioned means of forming us for a robust faithful life with Him.
As we pray the Psalms, we are freed to let go of our old securities of predictable and controllable patterns of responding to God.
/ R E L A T I O N S H I P /
We cannot have a deep relationship with someone who we cannot speak honestly with. Someone who we can show our ugly side to.
Honest, unguarded speaking is essential to healthy family life and close relationships.
But do we realize that the same thing applies to our relationship with God?
This is what the Psalms are about: Speaking our mind honestly and fully before God.
/ B U T H O W? /
The Psalms are not all beautiful declarations of musical praise. In fact, many of them suggest that there is a great deal wrong with the world, and they demand that God would do something about it.
Read Psalm 58:8
Things like this bring us to one of the most important things about the Psalms: They are blunt, clear, and honest human utterances.
The Psalms are the only part of the Bible that is formatted for be put directly into the mouths of the reader. The rest of the bible represents God’s speaking to us – directly in the prophets, through the Israelites, the Gospel messages, or the wisdom of the Proverbs.
But only the Psalms are written as prayer – human words to God.
Yet – because they are in the Word of God – they are also God’s word to us, or God’s Word in us.
The Psalms are the Spirit of God speaking through us. Helping us to pray when we do not know what to pray. Which is most of the time…
/ P S A L M S C O R R E C T U S /
The Psalms are the most practical and accessible guide to the holy life. For we read the words of God’s chosen and holy people. We may not rightfully imitate the actions that occurred in the Bible. But, we can imitate their words.
Their words before God of: adoration, exultation, gratitude, rage, despair, and even fear. All feelings that all of God’s holy and chosen people experienced.
Guard us from Religion – “Religion” in it’s dangerous sense is a set of ideas about God, far away from a relationship with God. The Psalms are prayers, conversation, honest dialogue, and they force us to do more than engage in speculation about who this God is. Through the words of the Psalms we find ourselves talking to the living God.
What is lament? What does it mean to lament?
/ L A M E N T P S A L M S /
/ R E A D /
1. What do you notice about this Psalms?
2. Why do you think it is important that we have it in our Bibles?
· They are cries of anguish, rage, and seem to violate all of the rules of Christian prayer.
First they mainly focus on “me” – they are selfish prayers.
They are not polite – they accuse God of abandonment (Ps. 22:2, 88:14), of murder (22:16), of falling asleep on the job (44:24). They try to bribe God (6:6), or just tell Him to straight up go away (39:13).
They take an un-Christian attitude toward their enemies: they pray devoutly that terrible things will happen to them, even to little children (109:6-20, 137:9, 143:12).
When you lament, you are asking God to create conditions that might be possible for you to offer praise – conditions that are mainly within your own heart.
The very existence of these Psalms is important because it suggests that unresolved despair is itself one legitimate, though tragic, aspect of life with God.
Crying to God, screaming at God in the darkness like Job, refusing false comfort but not being able to rise on your own and embrace hope – there is room for this in faithful prayer.
Naming our desolation before God is an act of faith.
/ P R A C T I C E /
Take 5 – 10 minutes and spend some time either writing out a prayer, or finding another spot to sit and pray.
Do not hold back from bringing to God whatever is on your heart and mind, in whatever fashion feels right.
Like the Psalmists call out to God in lament, or give your anger to Him about a specific person, class, professor, or relationship. Prayerfully and honestly offer these things to God.
/ P R A Y E R / Jesus, we are here today. And some of us have some difficult things going on in our lives. Some of us have doubts about this whole faith thing. Some of us are angry with a friend, or family member – so much so, we may even think of them as our enemies. Some of us feel distant from you, and it’s hard. So, no matter where we find ourselves tonight, draw us back to a relationship with you. Help us to do that through prayer, and through praying the words of the Psalms. We thank you, we love you, in Jesus name, Amen.