Peace Lutheran Church Natoma, Kansas
In August, I went to Wichita for two days for a class on the book of Psalms; and then in October, I spent a day studying the Psalms via the Kansas District Education Committee hosting a web conference for the District.
Before I go on, I would like to say that despite spending three full days on the Psalms with people who know the book far better than I; I am still no expert on the book of Psalms. There are 150 psalms and they cover a wide period of history, not to mention a variety of topics and issues, each of which deserves its own in-depth study. And yet they all come together in a single book of the Bible.
The book of Psalms is comparable to our hymnal today, and that is because it is the hymnal of the Old Testament. Just like the hymns in Lutheran Service Book, some Psalms are psalms of praise; others are psalms of lament; some were written to mark an important event in the history of Israel; others were written at a particular point in an individual’s life. Sometimes the psalmist is angry with God, even challenging Him; and sometimes the psalmist cannot contain his excitement and joy in singing God’s praise.
One thing we know about all of the psalms is who they point to. The psalms, like all of Scripture, point to Jesus. And that is why we can pray the psalms today. The psalms are not dated to a time in history, only applicable to the people of the Old Testament. The psalms are just as much our prayers today as they were the prayers of David and Solomon, and others in the Old Testament. We can pray them with the same earnestness and confidence that the children of Israel did and know that God hears us.
While I did not learn everything there is to know about the book of Psalms in three days, I did learn the importance of praying the psalms on a regular basis. And so I write this to first challenge you and to invite you to join me in starting to pray a psalm a day, every day. There is no need to jump around looking for the psalm that fits the day, nor does this require a carefully constructed reading schedule; just start with Psalm 1 and go on from there.
Some days you might feel like cursing God for the hardships He has placed upon you, and you very well may find yourself reading a psalm of praise. That is ok, that psalm of praise is a reminder that even in the midst of trail and temptation, the Lord is with you, both when you rejoice and when you mourn.
On the other hand, some days, you may feel like everything is going ok and you are on top of the world; and then find yourself praying a psalm in which you confess that you are a wretched sinner. That is ok, that psalm of confession is a reminder that you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, even on a day when you may be thinking that you have conquered your temptations.
There was a picture on the internet a while back that read ‘Stay calm – Pray Psalms.’ When you read the psalms and learn them, the language of the psalms will begin to infiltrate your own prayer life. You very well may soon find yourself using some of the words and phrases common in the book of Psalms in your own prayers. Let this be one more reminder to you, that the book of Psalms is not just the prayer book of ancient Israel; it is the prayer book of the entire Church throughout the ages.
God Bless! Pastor Schmidt