3 Prayers and 1 Psalm

He stood in the shower, tears mingling with soap, water and pain.

She stood at the gravesite.  No tears in her eyes, but her stomach was in knots.

He looked at his friend and said, “My mom doesn’t know me anymore.  The Alzheimers has taken her away.”

She stood in the worship service with hands raised even as her marriage was slipping from her grasp.

As the morning sun turned the field golden, he pulled the car over, eyes filled with awe, and snapped a picture with his phone.

He stood gasping and sweating after the run, knowing his house was headed for foreclosure and wondering if God cared.

The Doctor entered the room, sat down and said, “I’m sorry.  I don’t like this part of the job, but you have cancer.”

This is where the psalms started…

in the soil of human lives.

This week is an exploration of the book of Psalms at our church.  Last night, our pastor gave us a basic framework of how to study the psalms.  He sees a psalm as a poetic puzzle which takes time to understand and to tease out the meaning.  A lot of poetry is like that, I think.  It takes time and effort to find understanding in the midst of structure, aliteration, syllabals and condensed meaning.  It was helpful for everyone to have a framework.  One of the first points mentioned was that each psalm comes out of a crisis of some kind.  Some writers have a crisis of pain while others a crisis of justice or praise.  Another way to say it is that

the psalms come out of each writer’s personal experience of trying to live a life of faith in the world.

And while the psalms come out of person experience, they are also prayers and songs giving us examples of how to worship.  The goal is to use God’s word as a guide for living and for worship.  We obviously sing the psalms in various forms today which forms our worship.  However, as someone asked last night, how can we pray the psalms?  Let me give you a few ideas and then my own re-write of Psalm 139.

  1. Pray the psalm as if it were your own.  Start with, “Our Father…”, pray the psalm and end with, “Amen”.
  2. Read a psalm and find the basic structure.  In other words, decide the various themes of the psalm and then construct your own prayers around that structure.
  3. Let the psalm guide your prayer.  Read the psalm and find the overall theme.  For example, Psalm 67 speaks to world missions so take time to pray for your church’s mission organizations and missionaries.

Something I’ve been doing on and off for years is re-writing psalms to reflect my own life experience.  In a sense, I’m doing what The Message does.  I’m updating the psalm and forcing myself to see my life through the eyes of God.  Here is my psalm of praise to the greatness of God and his constant care for me.  (If you read this and want to dig even deeper, take time to read John 16:5-15!  Jesus speaks to the same theme of God with us!)  So here goes…

You have seen my guts, God,

and you know I’m full of it.

You know when I stay up late

(watching tv) and when I hit the shower;

You know every thought at every minute, every hour.

You know when I get in the car and when I hit the bed;

You know everything

before

it’s

said.

Your presence like guard-rails beside me,

your hand lightly on my shoulder,

it’s overwhelming, as I get older

feelings of peace and Big-brother anxiety mix…

I can’t comprehend this.

Is there anyplace I can loose your Spirit?

Is there any place I can escape?

If I see the world from space, you are there;

if I hide in my basement, you are there.

If I wake at the crack of dawn, stiffle a yawn

and fly to Thailand or beyond,

even there your strong hand will hold me

Your right hand will hold me close.

If I said, “Darkness will make me invisible

and the light fades into cloaks of shadow,”

Not true, not true,

for darkness is as light to you.

Even night will shine like dawn

for darkness is as light to you.

For you stitched my soul;

weaving molecule, blood and bone.

Even then not alone, in my mother’s womb.

So now with my voice I raise

awe and wonder, fear and praise.

All you do is…what?

Amazing, astounding, stunning and startling…

I know it now.

   My embryo was not hidden from you

when I was made in who knows where,

when I was fit together, you were there

You saw my dust right on the cusp

of identity.

All these days were in your story

before Chapter One…soon Chapter Forty.

 

I wish I knew what you were thinking, God!

Your thoughts are endless!

If…IF I could count them

they would be beyond me

they would be infinity.

But when I wake up, I am still with you.

I am still with you.

Lord, if only you would kill cancer!

and destroy sin, war, death and disease!

And among the many questions are these:

“how could a good God…

(fill in the blank)?”

and, “Where are you now

with my life on the brink?”

Get away from me questions,

mis-trust, Satan and sins,

I have nothing but hate for you.

Get away from me.

You are the enemy.

Pick me apart, oh God, and see me soul;

Test me. Know me.

See if there is any sin still sifting

and lead me longingly towards life.

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