Ways to Pray the Psalms

“A true lover always feels in debt to the one he loves.”~~Ralph W. Sockman
Read more at BrainyQuote

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is pester power, “The ability or power of children to pressurize parents into buying them things, esp. items advertised on television.”

Today is Short Story Day. I love to read short stories, especially those from the haunted house/horror and science fiction genres. While I certainly appreciate the work and talent that goes into a good novel, I have a deeper appreciation for those who can tell a great story in just a few pages.

We had a good morning at church, yesterday. Wonder of wonders, Christi stopped by and picked up her mother and brought her to church! And she seemed to really enjoy it, expressing a desire to go back. Carol has seemed more coherent, these days, and it seems that she has somehow been weened off of the hydrocodone pills. If only it could stay that way . . .

We got our grocery shopping for the week done, as well as picking up everything (I think) we need for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We called my mother and worked out details on what we will bring and what she plans to cook for Christmas Day, so I think we’re all set. We’re trying something new this year. We’re going to try and make some peppermint bark. Seems to me, all we have to do is give Tessie and peppermint and ring the doorbell.

Get it?

I know . . . it was bad.

It’s Monday morning, and we only have to work three days this week! Then we are off until New Year’s Eve! Huzzah!!


(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

After a short interruption about Psalm 139, I’m getting back to Tim Keller’s book on prayer, which is almost completed. The last time, I read a portion about praying the Psalms. Today, we look at some ways in which this might be done.

The first is called “verbatim prayer.” This is simply taking a passage from the Psalms and praying it just as it is written. Keller cites Psalm 90 as a good example of one that could be used for verbatim prayer. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Vv 1-2) Of course there are many others that would work for this, one of my favorites being the one I just finished examining in the past three blog entries, Psalm 139.

A second way to pray the Psalms is to paraphrase and personalize them. If you recall, we talked about Martin Luther’s way of personalizing the Lord’s Prayer. That same method would work in praying a Psalm. For this one, we consider Psalm 59, which begins, Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me. Most of us don’t truly have people who are rising up to try to kill us. At least I don’t. Not that I know about, anyway. However, we have spiritual “enemies” that afflict us, so we might paraphrase this Psalm to speak of temptations we are facing or “other spiritual traps that it would be easy to fall into.”

A third way to pray the Psalms is referred to as “responsive praying.” In this case we might read a Psalm and be inspired to engage in adoration, confession, or supplication. This is similar to Luther’s method of meditation on Scripture.

Of course, we can’t afford to be rigid about any of these. “Many Psalms lend themselves more to one or the other, but as time goes on, the person praying them does not even think about what method he or she is using.” We can easily move back and forth between styles, or even sort of build our own “hybrids” between them.

Of course, “much of the sweetness and beauty of the Psalms lies in how they point us to the Messiah.” If we can learn to pray the Psalms with Jesus in mind, great power can be unlocked. One way to do this is to remember that, as a youth, Jesus would have sung and prayed the Psalms, himself. We might even consider how he thought about them as he sang them or prayed them. We might consider what Jesus suffered when we come to a Psalm of lament. Or we might consider that we, ourselves, hide in Christ, when we come to a Psalm of refuge. There are also a number of “Messianic Psalms,” which help us to “simply consider the greatness and beauty of Jesus, to adore and rest in him.”

Father, as I pray through the Psalms in this coming year, I pray that you will allow them to continuously point me to the “greatness and beauty of Jesus,” in my life.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Deep Well of the Psalms

“Immersing ourselves in the Psalms and turning them into prayers teaches our hearts the ‘grammar’ of prayer and gives us the most formative instruction in how to pray in accord with God’s character and will.”~~Tim Keller

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”~~Epictetus (BrainyQuote)

Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is unclubbable, “having or showing a disinclination for social activity : unsociable.” Everyone’s got that friend, right? Or perhaps some of us are that friend . . .

Today is Maple Syrup Day. That makes my mouth water, just thinking about it! Pancakes and syrup sound really good right now!

As I read that quote of the day, this morning, my thoughts were taken back to something that happened to me last night, on the way home from work. It was one of the worst trips home ever, taking close to two hours for a trip that normally only takes one. So I was already in a bad mood. At this one particular juncture, I was turning left at an intersection of three main streets. A woman ran the red light. And not by just a little bit. Let’s just say that I reacted quite poorly, and leave it at that. I felt quite ashamed, later, realizing that I had acted very un-Christlike. So, yeah. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” I could have made a better choice, but I chose to get angry.

On a lighter note, it’s pre-Friday! And I’m getting really excited about the Yuleslide event Saturday morning. It’s been thirty-five years since I have played in a “trombone choir.” This is going to be great fun!

I almost forgot. My mother got back from her church trip to Marshall, and she had a marvelous time. One of the best blessings was that her twin brother came and visited her and spent the day with them on Tuesday. Here is a picture of them, taken by the lady who organized this trip and drove them out there.

Uncle Buddy and Mama


(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Today, I come to a section called “Praying the Psalms.” This has been alluded to several times during the course of reading this book, and one of the books that Tim Keller frequently refers to is Eugene Peterson’s book Answering God: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer. In this segment, he also refers to another book, by T.M. Moore, called God’s Prayer Program: Passionately Using the Psalms in Prayer.

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I love the Psalms. I have believed, for many years, that it is no accident that they fall in the middle of our Bibles (unless you have one of those huge reference Bibles with hundreds of pages of resources in the back, in which case Revelation is in the “middle”).

We know from history that the early Church used Psalms as a “prayer book.” A fourth-century African theologian named Athanasius wrote, in a letter, “Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book [the Psalms] you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you . . . learn the way to remedy your ill.” He wrote further that the Psalms can teach us to praise God, repent for our sins, and give thanks to God. He concludes, “Under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every turn.”

No truer words have e’er been spoken. Keller says, “Immersing ourselves in the Psalms and turning them into prayers teaches our hearts the ‘grammar’ of prayer and gives us the most formative instruction in how to pray in accord with God’s character and will.”

Tomorrow, I will begin examining ways in which we can do this.

Father, I thank you and praise you for the Psalms. They have meant so much to me in my prayer times and Bible reading times. I pray that they will become even more important to me, going forward, and that others can discover this deep well of spirit and devotion that is contained in them.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

Finding Ourselves in Suffering

Good morning. It’s Monday again. Monday, June 25, 2012. we have a week of 100+ temperatures predicted. Welcome to summer. Today is “National Catfish Day.” Am I supposed to eat one or pet one? I don’t know. I probably won’t be able to do either, though.
On this date in 1876, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeated General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn. On this date in 1950, the Korean War began. I believe my uncle, Jamie Bickley, served in this war. On this date in 2009, Michael Jackson died.
On yesterday’s date in this year, the Boston Red Sox traded Kevin Youkillis to the Other Sox. I’m very sad about that. I said during the off season that 2012 was going to be a painful year to be a Red Sox fan. I had no idea… However, they did win yesterday, getting up to four games over .500, and the Rangers took the series from the Colorado Rockies with a 4-2 victory that should have been 4-0. Joe Nathan struggled greatly during the top of the ninth last night, and Josh Hamilton probably saved the game with a spectacular catch out in left-center field.
We were at that game, along with Stephanie’s boyfriend, Scottie. We sat in the grueling sun, just to the right of the left field foul pole for the 605pm start. Fortunately, we found some Neutrogena 100+ Sunblock! I didn’t even know they made 100+spf! It apparently worked, as I have hardly any pink spots on me after sitting in that sun for pretty much two hours. We don’t usually sit in that area, but these seats were acquired by some people where I work for a group night at the ballpark.

Today is a new day; a new week. Here’s hoping for some good days this week. One of our supervisors is on vacation where I work, so that always creates potential for added stress.

Father, I pray for some vision of you this morning that will help me live this day looking to you.

Today, I’m reading Psalm 25.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

Those are just a few of the verses of this psalm, which, written by David, actually is a good prayer to each of us to pray for ourselves. I’ve found, over the years, that I really like praying the Psalms. There is such a diversity of emotion in them. This particular one is good for confession and forgiveness.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

Today’s reading is called “Receiving One’s Self in the Fires of Sorrow.” Doesn’t that sound uplifting? I’m going to quote the whole first paragraph.
“My attitude as a saint to sorrow and difficulty is not to ask that they may be prevented, but to ask that I may preserve the self God created me to be through every fire of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself in the fire of sorrow, He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.” OH, but I’m all about praying that I be kept out of trouble, right?
We say that there should be no sorrow. I’ve even encountered people who foolishly believe that the Christian should never have trouble in the life. But this is not so. We do encounter sorrow; we do encounter trouble, “and we have to receive ourselves in the fires.” These things exist, God does not make mistakes, so there must be a reason for them, and we must receive them.
Have you ever encountered someone who as received himself in the fires of sorrow? I have. You know it when you see them. And the thing is, when you find someone like that, you are are confident that you can go to that person in your own sorrow, and he will have time for you. “If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.” This is where I desire to be. I desire to be “nourishment for other people.” Does this mean I’m asking for sorrow? Emphatically, no! In fact, nowhere in Scripture are we ever told to look for sorrow and suffering. We are simply told that we will find them.
This applies directly to my recent feeling that I am headed for a ministry of intercessory prayer. I have to be aware of myself and my attitude about sorrow and suffering; about the grief that was described yesterday. I must not be asking my Father to keep me out of trouble, but to preserve me when it comes. I have to receive myself in the fires of sorrow.
A quick testimony: Yesterday morning, as we prepared for the worship celebration, the background vocalist, Summer, came back stage. She was having pain and discomfort in the area of the gall bladder. She had been to the doctor and was given some medication. Tests were run. They didn’t have any results yet. She was doing okay, but we could tell that she wasn’t right. We had our usual pre-service prayer time. During that time, I felt strongly that we needed to pray over Summer. But I’m not the “leader” and I didn’t say anything. After the service was over, I couldn’t let it go. I felt very strongly that God wanted me to lead out in this. So I grabbed some people and said, “We need to pray for Summer.” And we did. She wound up going to the ER last night, but nothing was done yet, because the test results aren’t back yet. Did the prayer accomplish anything? Of course it did…we don’t know what yet, but it accomplished something, if nothing else, letting this saint know that people care and pay attention to God. The purpose of this testimony is not to show that I am super-spiritual, because I’m not. It is to show that, when God wants us to do something, he will hound us until we do it! He would not leave me alone on this yesterday, and I finally did something about it. This is what intercessory prayer is about…it is constantly listening (and that’s something I really need work on) to the “voice” of God via the Holy Spirit’s promptings and then acting. I need serious prayer as I learn how to do this.

Father, I thank you for helping me deal with this subject today. I praise you that you are always there for us in times of sorrow and suffering. I thank you that you will save us, not from ever experiencing sorrow and suffering, but you will save us out of them when they occur. I do not feel that I have truly suffered much in my life. There has been sorrow, and yes, there have been times of great anxiety as we have struggled through issues. But, true to your promise, you have kept us secure through these times, even on occasions when I almost felt as though you had abandoned us.
So this morning, I ask for the attitude of the saint that Chambers described. May I find myself in the sorrows that come to my life. May I discover myself truly in the light of your grace and mercy as storms come to my life. I will not ask to be kept out of the storm. I will, rather, ask that my life be preserved through the storm, and that, as I enter into this “ministry” that you have led me toward, that this “self” that I find will be, as Chambers said, “nourishment for others.” Again, Father, I am not asking for notoriety or fame. I am not asking to be known as a “prayer warrior.” I simply want to be known as someone that people believe that they can trust; someone in whom people have confidence that their needs will be prayed for; someone with compassion. I pray that you would take away the cynicism which has marked a good part of my life. May I approach this life with, not innocence, for there is little of that left, but purity in your Spirit.

I pray for this day today, Lord. I pray that Christi will have a successful day at her work, and that your presence will be strong with her today. I pray that same for my day. I pray that we will have success and that the absence of the other supervisor will bring no added stress to the day.

I pray for Summer today, Lord, as she awaits results from tests to see if she will need her gall bladder removed. I also pray for continued recovery for Bart after his surgery.

I will continue praying on the way to work, Father.

Find yourself in the sorrow and suffering. As saints of God, we should not ask to be kept from suffering, rather we should ask to be preserved through it.

Grace and peace, friends.