The Psalms – that well-loved source for prayer and devotion (1), and that liturgical door (2) to participation in Salvation History. Its scope is wide and all-embracing: proclaimed in the echoing grandeur of cathedrals, chanted or read in unison several times daily in the Divine Office, tucked away in that little worn book on the bedside table. To finish off this three-part series on the Psalms, then, I’d like to share with you some of the lessons that little worn book has taught me. Here are just a few insights I’ve personally gleaned through my experience with it (paired up with an example psalm or two):
– It’s okay to be mad at God. It’s okay to complain to God! It’s okay to admit to God that you’ve been suffering, and can’t see any rhyme or reason to it… Just as long as you then always end with trust. It’s okay to not know what the heck God is up to, but always come back to that underlying truth of His unfailing love. (Psalms 10, 88)
– It’s a normal thing to not feel God’s presence sometimes. But don’t be nonchalant about it. Care deeply about it! If you don’t feel that apparent absence, if you stop longing for Him, that’s when you know something is really wrong. The psalms that focus on this unsatisfied longing in particular are great wake-up calls, if you are in this situation. Ask Him for the desire. Keep asking Him, and He will come through. (Psalm 13)
– Praying well involves living well – living according to God’s commands. Along the same line as that necessity to be in the state of grace to receive the Holy Eucharist, do the best you can to repent of your sins and live out God’s commandments in daily life, in order to make your soul ready for good prayer. (Psalms 15, 17)
– That said, don’t let being guilt-ridden and mired in sin stop you from praying either. Some of the most moving psalms are a plea for God’s forgiveness and mercy in light of some sin that the psalmist had committed. These particular psalms are great reminders for us of God’s unfailing mercy. Ask for forgiveness. Have hope in God’s mercy. And – bring it to confession and repent. (Psalms 6, 51)
– God listens to sincere prayer. Did I mention that already? I’ll say it again – God is listening. (Psalms 6, 139)
– God has a great passion for the weak, the poor, and the helpless. (Psalms 9, 12) If you love him, show love to the least of these. And once you realize that you yourself are small, weak, and helpless, God will use you in unimaginable ways. (Psalm 8)
– What matters isn’t what you think of God; it’s what God thinks of you. (Psalm 139)
– Rejoice in God. Rejoice in His goodness, in His justice, in His creation. (Psalms 8, 96)
– Always remember the great deeds He’s done in the past – they will remind you of how trustworthy He is, even in your darkest times. (Psalms 18, 66)
– God’s law is pretty important. But it’s also not meant to be a dry rulebook; it’s meant to bring joy, make wise the simple, and truly satisfy the heart. (Psalms 19, 119)
– Stand in awe of God’s great majestic power. He is not just some abstract concept – He truly upholds every moment of existence, and causes it to be. He is the True King above all kings. Show some respect. (Psalms 93, 94)
– God alone can satisfy the longing heart. Everything else withers. (Psalms 1, 17)
And now, I’d like to open it up to you readers: what has impacted you the most though your experience of the psalms? In what ways has God spoken to you through them?
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