The Psalms are Spirit-inspired prayers, expressing every kind of emotion I myself have. In them I can find expression of what’s in my heart.
It’s a long time ago, now. I think I was in my late teens. At a multi-day retreat, I was in conversation with a senior sister, an outstanding Bible student, and she mentioned her love of the Psalms. I confessed to her that I found the Psalms hard to get through, that they seem repetitive. She replied, “Yes, they’re just so psalmy, aren’t they?” And then she smiled at me.
She didn’t say it, but clearly she thought that I would change my mind about them once I gained a bit more spiritual maturity.
Well, she was right. The Psalms remain “psalmy” as she put it. But where I used to see repetitiveness, I now see nuance. I see how the Psalms so often speak the mind of Messiah—from his upbringing, through his ministry, his relationships with friends and opponents, all the way to the cross—and then exultant in his resurrection.
Where I used to see repetitiveness, I now see nuance.
And I find that the Psalms so often speak for me. It was thinking about this that took my mind back to that long-ago conversation. Paul wrote,
One way (not to say the only way) that the Spirit helps us in our prayers, is putting into words feelings that we struggle with. There are examples in the prophets and the New Testament letters, but the greatest source for me, now, is the Psalms. They are Spirit-inspired prayers, expressing every kind of emotion I myself have. In them I can find expression of what’s in my heart.
I think about Jesus reading the Psalms, without doubt finding in them even more, but it’s a source of connection with him. He and I reading the same passage, each of us seeing there a reflection of our own heart. Or, let’s be honest, seeing there how he dealt with something way better than me.
He is the Teacher, still, and one of the textbooks he uses to teach from is the record of his own heart, written long in advance in the Psalms. Not just words in a book, but a soul poured out. Multiple souls poured out—David, Asaph, the sons of Korah. Jesus. Brothers and sisters around me, and me too.
One example. Maybe you, like me, have been asking in prayer, “How long, O Lord?” I find that the first part of Psalm 94 expresses what I’ve been feeling and praying. And then when I read on to the rest of the psalm, I find instruction, because I’m not fully there.
The psalmist confesses his foot nearly slips. Mine too. What then? As I definitely enter into the mind of the first part, I need to work at entering the mind of the last part. Jesus got there, I am sure.
Yes, the Psalms are still psalmy. And, I now realize, they are a rich store of the heart’s expression. They teach me about the mind of Christ, and about my own mind, and about what my mind should be.