I am now at day 9 of my crazy Lenten project to pray the 6 ancient daily offices each day. It’s been hard going with many a missed office and lots of uninspiring, rushed offices. There is one unintended positive developing and that is a new found appreciation, possibly even love, of the Psalms. Yes the Psalter, the ancient prayer/songbook of the ancient Hebrews and Christian church. The Psalms have been an integral part of the spirituality of Christians and the corporate worship of the church from the beginning. Psalms have even made their way into contemporary pop culture through bands like U2 and Hey Rosetta. Saying, singing, and praying the Psalms has always been a part of the daily offices, so I have tried to incorporate the Psalms into my offices as much as possible.
As I said this is a new love affair for me. Until now I have never paid much attention to the Psalms. When preaching I would gravitate to the Gospel or New Testament or Hebrew bible lections. The biblical scholar in me preferred story, history, and epistle over the poetry of the Psalms.
That is beginning to change, largely due to this process. Just the other day I preached my first sermon on the Psalms, Psalm 51 actually. I am struck be the honesty, doubt, passion, faith, frustration, and rawness of the Psalms. Basically they are a collection of honest, heartfelt prayers to God; the human cry of celebration and lamentation to the divine. In particular I have been praying my way through Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms. It is a masterpiece of poetry based on the Hebrew alphabet. It records the authors love for God’s law and dependence on God’s provision of protection and salvation.
So if you like your religion a little raw or if you don’t like spirituality that is too neat and tidy then the Psalms could be your book. If you struggle with doubt, disbelief, and the problem of suffering in the face of a “good, loving God”, then you are in the company of the Psalmists. So pick it up and read, who knows it may inspire you to write your own psalm.