Tag Archives: psalms

Pray a Psalm

Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer both assert we are wise to pray the psalms. Bonhoeffer writes with real passion about the fact Jesus would have learned the psalms as his prayer book during his upbringing in Nazareth. It is, therefore, easy to imagine Jesus was praying psalms when the disciples from time to time searched for Jesus and found him praying.

Yesterday, April 17, our pastor preached from Psalm 23, and he repeated Continue reading Pray a Psalm

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A Hymn For Meditation

Praise the Lord! O Heavens Adore Him 

Praise the Lord! O heavens adore him;
Praise him angels, in the height;
Sun and moon, rejoice before him;
Praise him, gleaming stars and light.
Praise the Lord, for he has spoken;
Worlds his mighty voice obeyed;
Laws which never shall be broken
For their guidance he has made.

 Praise the Lord, for he is gracious;
Never shall his promise fail.
God has made his saints victorious;
Sin and death shall not prevail.
Praise the God of our salvation;
Hosts on high, his power proclaim;
Heaven and earth, and all creation,
Laud and magnify his name.
      Foundling Hospital Collection

 Note: The Foundling Hospital was established to care for children whose parents were almost always unknown. The children were abandoned on doorsteps or found wandering through slums alone. The word “hospital” had a broader meaning than our perception of temporary, intense medical care. We would more likely call it an orphanage. This hymn was part of a collection published as a fund-raising project for the institution.

  • This hymn evokes praise to be sung by children who never knew their parents and whose lives even in the Foundling Hospital were not pleasant by twenty-first century standards. Why should they praise the Lord?
  • Have you ever observed a scene in which all nature appeared to be praising God, as this writer saw it?
  • Why should we be comforted to hear that God’s laws of nature cannot be broken? What does that say about the ability of human beings to destroy what God has created?
  • The hymn names two great enemies of human beings and asserts that they will not prevail in our lives. What are they, and why does the hymnwriter believe they cannot overpower us?
  • To what promise of God do the words, “never shall his promise fail” refer?
  • Have you ever known someone whose good name was destroyed either by himself or by the deliberate destructive words of others? Think of that situation, and then think about the way we speak of God. What exactly does the hymnwriter mean by inviting us to “laud and magnify” the name of God.

A Verse for Meditation

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.                                              Psalm 146:2

  •  Every day the news brings us more reminders of disaster and tragedy in the world. How are we supposed to praise God in the midst of such misery?
  • We know that David’s life was no picnic, and it is unlikely that any other psalm writer had a life of never-ending ease. How did this writer motivate all that praise?
  • When I am in the midst of deep pain myself, does God even expect me to praise him?
  • The book of Revelation describes myriads and myriads of angels and people praising God for eternity. Is that what this writer means? Is that something I should actually look forward to? Is that all heaven is?

Pray Psalm 23

English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James' Ver...
English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James’ Version), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home. Scanned at 800 dpi. Français : Illustration du Psaume 23 (version autorisée par le roi Jacques), en frontispice de l’édition omnibus du Sunday at home. Version numérisée à 800 dpi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday posts will be focused on the habits and practices that help build faith. You might call them “Strength-building Exercises for Faith.” These posts will range from a simple response you can use to calm yourself in a crisis to a lengthy guide for studying a whole book of the Bible. These posts will often include material for the brain to process, such as historical eras or language resources, but the focus of the posts will always be to lead you, the reader, to spiritual maturity. The posts will speak from my spiritual experience, but the intent is for you to be inspired to habits and practices that will result in growth of your faith and your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can profess faith sincerely without growing, but you will never know the beauty and delight of your faith if you never mature in faith.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a true martyr for his faith, wrote a small book called Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible. In this book he says, “The Psalms are given to us to this end, that we may learn to pray them in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible, ©Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, p. 15) He elaborates on the evidence that Christ prayed the Psalms, and then he says that when we pray the Psalms we are praying as Christ prayed and praying the prayers Christ himself, eternally slain before the throne of God, inspired in David. It is a powerful image, and I am still absorbing it.

Today’s meditation is my experience of praying Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

I confess, O Lord, that even when I complain about things I do not have, I see that you have provided everything I need. You provide even more than I need, and I always have enough to share, as long as I can remember that you will not stop providing. I intend to be generous, but my fear that I won’t have enough later often impedes my willingness to give to others. You, O Christ, fed five thousand with almost nothing. Why is it so hard for me to say, I have enough, enough to share? I will not be in want, because You O Lord provide what I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

    he leads me beside still waters;

The world is so noisy, Lord. Thank you for giving me rest and peace in the midst of it. Thank you for being my refuge. A moment’s relaxation, a cool drink on a hot day, just a moment of quiet while things seethe around me.

he restores my soul.

    He leads me in right paths

    for his name’s sake.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in your presence, your guidance, your wisdom. I breathe out fear and doubt. Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, may I know that you are with me. The hardest part is when I doubt your presence. Show me the next place I should set my foot. Let me see just that much and know that you step there with me.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

    I fear no evil;

    for you are with me;

    your rod and your staff—

    they comfort me.

Things really went in the wrong direction today. Will I still have a job tomorrow? What comes next? I am still going forward with you, Lord. With you, knowing you are here, I can face my fears. Satan’s minions assault me, but you keep them at bay. You surround me and sustain me and give me courage. Deep blue sea may mount up in frightful waves. Money woes may seem impossible. Friends may seem to draw away from me. But you, O God, go with me and suffer with me through all the danger and despair.

You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies;

    you anoint my head with oil;

    my cup overflows.

As Satan’s dogs yap and snarl, you provide for me, anyway, O God, my Savior. I feast on Christ’s body and blood, given for me. I am nourished despite want and deprivation all around. You show your favor and love by anointing me as your own with the blood of Christ that sets me free from Satan’s power to destroy me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

    all the days of my life,

    and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

    my whole life long.

Satan and satanic demons may pursue me, but I am safe in God’s dwelling place. As Christ’s body is in, with and under the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the indwelling Holy Spirit puts God’s dwelling place in, with and under all my realities. God is near. I dwell with him. I am at home with God forever, now and hereafter.

Amen

 

How can you remind yourself to pray when all seems lost and you can’t catch your breath because fear has paralyzed you?

 

© 2012 Katherine Harms

The Truth in all its Splendor

 The more I read Psalm 19, the more I love it. This psalm is like a layered sauce for shrimp and pasta. Each layer has been reduced to its flavorful essence, and there are so many flavors that it is impossible to appreciate each one individually.

Psalm 19 begins with a lavish statement of the way creation testifies to God’s work and ongoing sovereignty. Pointing out that created things have no voice in the sense of a sound we can hear, the psalmist says, as translated in The Message, “Their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.” (Psalm 19:4) This statement feels like a Hubble photograph. It responds to my hunger for truth. The world around me suffers from a massive truth deficit, but all of creation speaks truth that fills and comforts my heart. To hear these words is to be built up in faith that God has a purpose for all things, and his purposes do not fail.

The heart of the psalm is a master statement of the way God’s law testifies to the same truth which creation speaks without words. God’s law is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure and true. There really is order behind the chaos I encounter everywhere. Like a painter’s palette of many colors, the psalmist’s word palette names God’s law as the facets of a jewel – law, decree, precept, commandment, fear, ordinance. God’s truth does not vary with passing events. Rather, it is like a precious stone that I might hold  in my hand turning it this way and that to catch the light and see the light transformed by passing through the jewel.

In case I don’t really absorb the value of God’s law, the psalmist explains what will happen if I make the law a part of myself. If I absorb it into my spirit, it will make me feel alive, it will make me look wise even if I am not smart, it will make me happy with a happiness that cannot be crushed, it will give me insight into reality, it is never out of date, and best of all, it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Using God’s personal name, the name God gave to Moses to emphasize his eternal presence with Israel, the psalmist makes the revelation of the law intimate and vibrant, just for me.

In sum, the psalmist says, God’s revelation of himself is so rich and so valuable that it is better than the finest gold or the sweetest honey. Maybe I don’t think so highly of honey as the psalmist, but I do know that when Israel left Egypt bound for the Promised Land, they called it the land of milk and honey. My hunger for truth makes me yearn for God the way I might yearn for food. The psalmist expresses delight in God’s revelation of himself in creation and in the law the way I might delight in a richly complex sauce over shrimp and pasta.

There is only one legitimate response to such a revelation. I bow my head in worship and prayer. God has given me the priceless treasure of himself, wordless truth in creation, words of truth in his law. With the psalmist, I ask nothing more than to speak and think truth in all things as my creator does.

If you don’t have a Bible handy, here is a copy of the Psalm

Psalm 19

1      The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

2     Day to day pours forth speech,

and night to night declares knowledge.

3     There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

4     yet their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

5     which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,

and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

6     Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

and its circuit to the end of them;

and nothing is hid from its heat.

7     The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul;

the decrees of the Lord are sure,

making wise the simple;

8     the precepts of the Lord are right,

rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is clear,

enlightening the eyes;

9     the fear of the Lord is pure,

enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are true

and righteous altogether.

10    More to be desired are they than gold,

even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey,

and drippings of the honeycomb.

11    Moreover by them is your servant warned;

in keeping them there is great reward.

12    But who can detect their errors?

Clear me from hidden faults.

13    Keep back your servant also from the insolent;

do not let them have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless,

and innocent of great transgression.

14    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable to you,

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.