We are listening to to the beautiful book of Psalms in worship during the season of Lent. The psalms are a collection of songs used by the people of Israel as they worshiped in the Temple and in their homes. The psalms encouraged them to – as Paul would say centuries later – pray without ceasing. They were encouraged to speak to God no matter what was going on. And since their lives – like our lives – had ups and downs and joys and challenges, it meant that there needed to be a wide variety of psalms.
Life can get messy sometimes. Too often when people hear the word “prayer,” they think that our words need to be sweet and joyful and filled with prayer. The psalms offer us words for those other times in life. It turns out that there truly is a psalm for every season of our lives.
The psalms can offer us words when we don’t know what to say to God. The psalms encourage us to pray honest, heartfelt prayers.
- Feeling exhausted? Read Psalm 38 which complains, “My strength has failed me.”
- Filled with anxiety? Rest a moment with Psalm 131 as you pray, “Help me quiet and calm my soul,” and be comforted by the images of God as a loving mother.
- Guilt-ridden? Psalm 51 is for you. We can offer our confession knowing that God is filled with “abundant kindness” and “steadfast love.” God can create in us a clean heart.
- Sad? Brokenhearted? Don’t hide those emotions away. Pour out your feelings with the psalmist, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” Pray that as long as you need to until you encounter what the psalmist finally found – God’s “unfailing love.”
- Need a place to rest and hide away? Turn to Psalm 23 and be reminded of God’s quiet pastures and guidance through the dark valleys. Open your heart to God so that God may “restore your soul.”
And that’s just a tiny glimpse of the richness of the Psalms! Whatever we are feeling or experiencing, there is a Psalm for that.
What an amazing gift – God wants our honest prayers. If we only pray “pretty prayers,” that sound good but ignore what is on our hearts, we miss the healing and help that God offers. The Psalms can help us make our way through the joy, confusion, celebration, trials, and beauty of our lives and offer us the reminder that our Good Shepherd (Psalm 23) is with us every step of the way.