Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me.”
Today is Book Review Day. The book I’m reviewing today is the most famous, the most often read, in fact the very best book on prayer that is available. If you’re a Christian you probably own this book already. It’s not often published by itself — it usually comes as one book in middle of another book. Today’s book is the Psalms, a collection of 150 prayers in the middle of the Bible.
The Psalms are not meant to be read straight through the way you read a modern novel. They are meant to be prayed. When our daughter was 10 or 12, she asked what I was reading. “The Psalms,” I said. “Oh, the Psalms,” she replied. “They’re all the same: ‘Help me Lord, my life is falling apart, I’m depressed, come rescue me.’ and then, ‘Oh, thank you Lord, you saved me.’” I said, “What a wonderful summary of the Psalms. That’s why I love them. I think you’re just too young to appreciate them.”
The most amazing thing about the Psalms? If you’re not very good at praying, they give you words to pray with. They’re a gift for people who try to pray.
Another amazing thing about the Psalms is the stuff people bring to God when they pray. Here are some examples:
Emotions are big in the Psalms. People speak to God
– about great joy and deep sorrow,
– about large hopes and crushing disappointments,
– about desperate loneliness and exuberant friendships,
– about debilitating depression and unrestrained happiness,
– about vicious hatred and deep deep love.
Relationships are big in the Psalms. The pray-ers have friends who love and support them, enemies who hate and attack. Sometimes friends become enemies. The only constant friend is God, but often the one praying is not sure if God is friend or enemy today.
Good and evil are big in the the Psalms. The pray-ers often complain about the violence and injustice in the world. But they also confront the evil that lives in the human heart — in our own hearts — and they bring the evil to God.
One of the most important things the Psalms teach: We don’t have to get better to come to God. We don’t have to dress up or pretend our lives are together. We can come to God and say our prayers just as we are, in any state of anger or depression or joy.
In the Psalms, God presents himself in many different ways.
– he is king and ruler and judge of the world in Psalm 2
– he is our rock and fortress and saviour in Psalm 18
– he is the creator of a beautiful universe in Psalm 19
– he is the gentle shepherd in Psalm 23
– he is the one who hears our cries of pain and distress in Psalm 42
– he is the gardener tending a vine in Psalm 80
– he is the mother bird sheltering us under her wings in Psalm 91
In all of our need, all of our pain, all of our joy, God is there for us in the Psalms.
Author Eugene Peterson describes the Psalms in this way:
“Prayers are tools,
not for doing or getting,
but for being
[Prayers] are the tools…God uses to work his will in our bodies and souls.
Prayers are [the] tools…we use to collaborate with his work in us. . . .
The Psalms are the best tools….” (Eugene Peterson, “Answering God”, pp. 2-3)
Dear God, today we need a teacher in the way of prayer. So we pray to you with the Psalmist, “Show us your ways, Oh Lord, teach us your paths” (Ps 25). “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90).
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me.”