Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Something About Psalms

I never got why the Psalms are so popular; they just never resonated with my soul. I can explain the structure of Hebrew poetry, but never understood it. The Psalms held more questions than answers--why all the negativity, obsession with revenge, and self-pity?

Then I started visiting people in the hospital--people who weren't going to leave it alive--and I had nothing to say to them. So I would read them scripture, and, not knowing what to read, I turned to the Psalms (they're popular, right?). I flipped through and realized that the Psalms were talking about the same type of experience they were going through, and as I read the expression on the person's face would soften as they understood that God understood.

The Psalms are prayers that were put in the Bible for a reason. They teach us that it's OK to tell God exactly what's on our mind, even though it's not nice. And they always leave us with a reminder that we can trust God anyway.

A psalm of David, to bring us to the LORD's remembrance.

O LORD, don't rebuke me in your anger!
Don't discipline me in your rage!
Your arrows have struck deep,
and your blows are crushing me.

Because of your anger, my whole body is sick;
my health is broken because of my sins.
My guilt overwhelms me –
it is a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and stink
because of my foolish sins.
I am bent over and racked with pain.
My days are filled with grief.
A raging fever burns within me,
and my health is broken.
I am exhausted and completely crushed.
My groans come from an anguished heart.

You know what I long for, Lord;
you hear my every sigh.
My heart beats wildly, my strength fails,
and I am going blind.
My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease.
Even my own family stands at a distance.
Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps for me;
they make plans to ruin me.
They think up treacherous deeds all day long.
But I am deaf to all their threats.
I am silent before them as one who cannot speak.
I choose to hear nothing,
and I make no reply.

For I am waiting for you, O LORD.
You must answer for me, O Lord my God.
I prayed, "Don't let my enemies gloat over me
or rejoice at my downfall."
I am on the verge of collapse,
facing constant pain.
But I confess my sins;
I am deeply sorry for what I have done.
My enemies are many;
they hate me though I have done nothing against them.
They repay me evil for good
and oppose me because I stand for the right.

Do not abandon me, LORD.
Do not stand at a distance, my God.
Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.

(Psalm 38, New Living Translation)

4 comments:

  1. Someone have once asked the retorical question: What kind of prayers would you publish if you were God? I like to think of the Psalms as human prayers honest from the heart, just expressing genuine feelings. This teaches us what the truth about prayers is.

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  2. Psalms are better understood when you are in pain. I'm so glad they are rceorded in the Bible! There are times when you're going through a difficult time that you don't know how to express your feelings to God. Then you read some Psalms and you start thinking: "that's exactly how I feel! God, did you hear that?"

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  3. Psalm 34 has become my favorite Psalm when visiting in the hospital. It speaks well of our desperate realities and God's complete power. Even angels encircle us.

    I have folks tell me how much that Psalm meant to them when they were ill or facing a tough illness or disease.

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  4. Psalms is not about answering questions, Psalms is about being heard. Psalms is about being totally free about ones feelings no matter how happy, sad, radical, or even sacreligious.

    Psalms reminds us that we can be ourselves. I think it interesting that at least somme of the Psalms were meant for public liturgical settings. I began to wonder if what we need is a good dose of reality that the psalms could bring...

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