Monday, March 16, 2009

School of Prayer – Praying the Psalms


Praying the Psalms

The Psalms were written at various times in Israel's history and were written for various occasions and needs. They have provided "the spiritual and theological grounding for both Judaism and Christianity. The Book of Psalms "presents nothing short of God's claim upon the whole world and that it articulates God's will for justice, righteousness, and peace among all peoples and all nations." (The New Interpreter's Bible, p. 643). They represent both human words to God and God's word to humans.

Allusion to Shakespeare and King James' Version of Bible: Psalm 46.

CATEGORIES OF PSALMS (not exhaustive)

Lamentation of an Individual (Prayer for Help – you will find yourself in these)
opening address
description of the trouble or distress
plea for God's response (often with reasons for God to hear and act)
expression of trust or confidence in God
promise to praise God (or offer sacrifice)
Psalms 5; 7; 11; 17; 26; 59; 109 (people falsely accused)
Psalms 3, 25, 56-57 (maybe by king or military leader)

Thanksgiving Song of an Individual
expression of praise and gratitude to God
description of trouble from which psalmist has been delivered
testimony to others
exhortation to others to join in praising God or acknowledging God's ways
Psalms 30, 34, 92, 107, 116.

Lament of the Community
same as of an Individual, but with first person plural.
Psalms 44, 74, 79, 80, 83, 77, 85, 89

Hymn of Song of Praise
opening invitation to praise
reasons for praise
recapitulation of invitation to praise
Psalms 100, 148, 150

Royal Psalms
Psalm 45 – royal wedding
Psalm 2 – coronation ritual
Psalms 72, also 18, 20, 21, 89, 101, 132, 144 for the king (on coronation day)

Wisdom/Torah Psalms (reflecting the spirituality of Proverbs and the Law)
Psalms 1, 37, 73, 128 (1, 19, 119 are Torah Psalms)

Entrance Liturgies

Psalms 15, 24

Prophetic Exhortation -urging decision about God's sovereignty, liturgical sermons
Psalms 81, 95

Psalms of Confidence/Trust
"eloquent professions of faith in God's protective presence and power amid threatening circumstances."
Psalms 16, 23, 91

The Psalms are intended for daily prayers of all the faithful. In our Book of Common Prayer, as you go through the Psalms, they are grouped by each day of the month, for morning and evening. So every month you will go through the whole Psalter.

Magnificat reflects Psalms 98 and 113
Royalty Psalms reflected in the Incarnation, title of Anointed One.
Nativity recalls content and movement of Psalm 29
Baptism of Jesus and Transfiguration, Psalm 29. 7
Beatitudes and Ministry of Compassion, Psalms 24, 37, 73; also 24, 37 and 73 (Beatitudes)
Entry into Jerusalem, Psalm 118
Crucifixion, Psalm 22; also influenced by Psalm 69

Psalms 23, 42, 43, 44, 84, 137, 139
Psalm 42, 84,, 93, 139 translated by Stephen Mitchell, A Book of Psalms
"Praying to Big Jack," Anne Sexton, 45 Mercy Street
"Thanksgiving after Communion," "A Bird in the Hand," by Vassar Miller (If I Could Sleep Deeply Enough)
"i thank You God for most this amazing" by e.e. cummings (XAIPE)
"Thank You" by Robert Creeley (The Charm)
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty" and "God's Grandeur"

Illustrations of contemporary reflections on the Psalms – use them!

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

e.e. cummings

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

God's Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge & shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast & with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins


God acts within every moment
and creates the world with each breath.
He speaks from the center of the universe,
in the silence beyond all thought.
Mightier than the crash of a thunderstorm,
mightier than the roar of the sea
is God's voice silently speaking
in the depths of the listening heart.
Stephen Mitchell, translator

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