Many years ago, I began reading the Psalms. Daily. First thing, each morning. I canít remember how it happened, though I do know it began during a long, difficult period of my life. It was Godís goodness that led me there.
Along with countless people of God through the centuries, Iíve found the incredible blessing of reading and praying the Psalms. The Psalms are prayerful, raw, unfiltered conversations between individuals and their God – the full spectrum of humanness brought before the Divine. They are reflections of deep, intimate relationship. They can be unsettling in their honesty at times, as they run the gamut of human emotion. If weíre honest, there is nothing we canít relate to in them. There is a commonality from the human perspective that makes these ancient prayers relevant for us today. Human emotion, our responses to the stuff of life, transcends time and culture. So does the nature of God.
There are few things that have shaped my heart, drawn me closer to God, than this life-giving practice. These sacred pages somehow give utterance to what is going on in my heart, day by day. Itís uncanny how they seem to mirror whatís going on with me. The Psalms have, in some ways, saved me. They have helped me articulate what is deep within me and find my voice, which got lost somewhere along the line. They have been very healing for my soul and instructive in the ways of faith. The awareness of Godís compassion, His Presence with me, as I pray to Him, along with the Psalmist, has been a life-line.
I donít try to read an entire Psalm each day. I just read, verse by verse, until I sense communion between God and me. I take my time and let the words of the Psalmist guide my heart. Usually a few verses is all thatís needed to open my soul before the Lord. Day-by-day, year-after-year, I slowly work my way through the Book of Psalms, picking up each morning where I left off the day before. It is something I look forward to even after all these years. Itís amazing to realize we can bring our questions, our joys, our needs, our fears, our gratitude, our sorrows, our rage, our failures, our confusion to Godís throne of grace.
O†Lord, hear me as I pray;
††††pay attention to my sigh.
Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
††††for I pray to no one but You.
Listen to my voice in the morning,†Lord.
††††Each morning I bring my requests to You
and wait expectantly.
I have learned the Psalms have a way of showing me things Iím not really fully aware of, that are going on with me. Of course God knows itís all in there. I learned a long time ago God knows me infinitely more than I know myself. With tenderness and grace, He has used the Psalms to help me get in touch with whatís going on in my soul so I can show up, be present to myself and to Him, with vulnerability and authenticity. Iím incredibly thankful Heís not put-off by the difficult things I harbor. He wants to meet me in those places.
In this process of grace, He has been there for me in profoundly insightful ways. I have found Him to be tender and compassionate as He guides me, encourages me, corrects me, heals me, comforts me, teaches me and more. Much more. Spending time with Him in this way, I am ready to face the new day, my heart reoriented once again (why am I so slow to learn?) by His grace, mercy, and love.
The Psalms can be a wonderful guide for us as we navigate the intricacies and uniqueness of our own inner and outer lives. Seeking God with humility and candor, bringing our whole selves to Him (even the hard stuff Ė especially the hard stuff) as best we can, we are able to dig our roots down deep into the soil of His love. I pray if you havenít tried this amazing practice in some way, you might give it a try.
For reflection, choose a Psalm (or a portion of a Psalm) to meditate on. Maybe you want to start with Psalm 1:1. Ask yourself the following questions as you read:
~ What do I notice about the Lord as I read?
~ What are my observations about the person praying and how does that resonate with me?
~ Write a heartfelt prayer/psalm of your own using the Psalm as a way of coming to the Lord. Journal a bit and/or spend time in prayer. Donít be afraid to voice what is on your heart and see how God might meet you there.