I LOVE the Psalms, but…I didn’t always love them.
To be honest: when I was a younger Christian, I thought the Psalms were a waste of space. Harsh And horrible thinking, I know. How could a person claim to love scripture (which I did), but not like the largest book in the Bible? Theologically, this amounts to believing that God didn’t know what he was doing when the Holy Spirit inspired the Psalms. Older Christians would often speak of the Psalms with a special reverence, and for the longest time, I just didn’t get what all the hype was about.
My shame runs even deeper—even after I had read through the entire book of Psalms a few times, I still wasn’t convinced of their importance. Two or three times a year, I’d get a strong impression that I needed to read/study/pray some of the Psalms. Occasionally, I’d ignore this desire, and I ended up with some pretty fruitless quiet times…so it was with reluctance that I would return to the Psalms, and God would bless my time with him—but my heart was still too hard to love the Psalms like other believers do.
Over time, this changed. There wasn’t a single moment where God changed my entire attitude over night. I wish there was, it would make for a better story! Instead, for me, it was a gradual process where I began to develop a deep love and appreciation for the Psalms.
The Psalms stand as one of the most unique books among the collection of already unique books that make up the Bible. It’s the biggest book, by far. It’s quoted more than any other book of the Bible. Although I couldn’t prove it, I bet it’s the most read.
I think the most interesting thing about this book is its dual nature. The Psalms are holy Scripture, and this means it’s God’s Word to people. As songs and prayer they are also our words to God. When you or I read from the Psalms, we are simultaneously listening to God and speaking to him. Weird, I know. The very idea of hearing and speaking at the same time calls for reflection.
If you struggle with your prayer life (I should probably write WHEN you struggle), the Psalms are a great place to turn. Praying the Psalms back to God can be an amazing experience. I often meet people who say, “I don’t know how to pray or what to say.” The solution is the psalms. There are many things in the psalms that are confusing, but human experience is universal. We all feel moments of triumph and moments of pain. We are thankful and joyful and ready to glorify God. And we also feel lonely, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. The Psalms express all of these things—and more.
The book of Psalms is a book about knowing God… talking to him honestly and authentically, listening to him, searching to find out what he’s really like. It’s a book that documents the journeys of different God-seekers by letting us in on their conversations with the Creator. Through their prayers and songs we can follow the well-worn paths they traveled as they discovered greater intimacy with the Father.