We Must Learn to Pray
I hope you’re enjoying this BEAUTIFUL day here on the Bayshore. Get outside, walk the block, say hello to a neighbor, enjoy God’s good creation!
In today’s Central Thoughts, we’re continuing our Psummer Psalm Pslam (good name, right?!?). In my daily reading for today was one of my absolute favorite Psalms, Psalm 86. Read the whole Psalm right here, or check out this central line:
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
It is true: there is none like our God.
In a world that is filled with all kinds of things vying for our attention, our love, our money, our affection, our hearts – none is like God. Because in the end, none of their works amount to much. But the work of the Lord saves us. If you’re looking to sing this Psalm, give this version a listen.
Speaking of Psalms though, I came across an extended quote this week that I’ve read before, but haven’t thought of in a while. It actually came to me via the uncle of Allen Riso (chair of our Trustee board, greeter, and more!) – Uncle Calvin, who puts out an occasional blog with his thoughts.
It’s a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wonderful book on the Psalms, called “Prayerbook of the Bible”. It’s a great read – well worth your time.
Here’s what Bonhoeffer says,
We must learn to pray. The child learns to speak because the parent speaks to the child. The child learns the language of the parent. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken and speaks to us. In the language of the Father in heaven, God’s children learn to speak with God. Repeating God’s own words, we begin to pray to God. We ought to speak to God, and God wishes to hear us, not in the false and confused language of our heart but in the clear and pure language that God has spoken to us in Christ.
God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we want to pray with assurance and joy, then the word of the Holy Scriptures must be the firm foundation of our prayer. Here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words that come from God will be the steps on which we find our way to God. …
If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible, and especially the Psalms, we must not, therefore, first ask what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and only then can we pray them with Jesus Christ. Thus it does not matter whether the Psalms express exactly what we feel in our heart at the moment we pray. Perhaps it is precisely the case that we must pray against our own heart in order to pray rightly. It is not just that for which we ourselves want to pray that is important, but that for which God wants us to pray. …
Not the poverty our heart, but the richness of God’s word, ought to determine our prayer.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayerbook of the Bible, 156-7.
As I’ve read a few Psalms per day for the last few weeks, I’ve really felt the highlighted part come to life in my prayer life.
Sometimes we don’t have the words to pray, but the Psalms so often provide them. Sometimes we don’t want to pray for God’s mercy (for instance) because we’re mad at God, but as we pray through a Psalm we find that God’s mercy is exactly what he’s putting on our lips. Sometimes gratitude is the furthest thing from our thoughts, but the Psalms put thanks and praise in our mouths. Sometimes worship is hard to express, and the right Psalm can put it in perfect words that our own cannot find.
And then after reading and praying the Psalms long enough (and all of Scripture), eventually, we find that the Psalms words become our own.
Amazing how God’s Word fill us, shapes our thoughts, and becomes ‘part’ of us in time.
Reminder: tomorrow at 1PM, you are invited to come and pray with me for our church together again (& I’ll have a Psalm ready to pray along with!).