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The Psalms

I think that one of the most important things that Christians can do is read and pray with the Psalms. The Psalms are a single book, more or less in the middle of most (Protestant) Bibles, which contains 150 poem-prayers that have been used in the worship and devotional life of Jews and Christians for millennia. It’s often called "the prayerbook of the Bible."

There are lots of good reasons to spend time in this book. One is that by praying these ancient words, and letting them rattle and root in our souls, we are brought into a broader place than our own circumstances and emotions. The psalms contain some of the most powerful language for expressing both the depths of pain and the height of ecstasy, and everything in between. All of human experience echoes through them.

So, when we pray the psalms, we may find them speaking directly to us, and our life. But we also might find that they draw us towards our neighbours, or transform our circumstances in unexpected ways. For instance, if things are going pretty well for us, praying a psalm like 35 or 88 can help us grow in empathy for those for whom life is hard. We intentionally join those who are weeping, in solidarity and comfort. (And those psalms give us words, when things inevitably go sideways in our own lives.)

The opposite is true, too. I had this experience this morning. My Bible reading app (I need something to keep me accountable! I use the resource from had me reading Psalm 40. I confess, I woke up tired because I’d been awake in the night fretting about things, much the way Jesus tells us not to. And it’s raining. And very dark in the morning these days. And a busy day ahead. And COVID-19. And, to put it mildly, I wasn’t feeling very worshipful. But then I read:

You have multiplied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you.

Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.

And suddenly the world was a whole lot bigger than my mood might have allowed. And I was in the presence of the God who does wondrous things, who thinks about us, who has given me more than I could ever be sufficiently thankful for.

And it’s still raining. And still dark. And still much to do. And still a pandemic. And, and, and. But I got to have a moment of worship in the midst of it all. I got to remember that I’m held by the One who holds all things, the depths and the heights—not at arm’s length, but intimately. I got to remember that in this season of Advent we are waiting for the God who has done, is doing, and will do marvellous things, more wonderful than we would dare expect.

So praise be.

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