Have you wondered what it might look like to praise God by praying some of the Psalter’s hymns when life doesn’t make sense? That’s just what I talked about in my last post, but it may not be obvious how it works. It’s probably a bit different for every person, but I thought that rather than moving on to talk about the psalms of disorientation I’d give you an idea of how I’ve been praying one particular hymn when the world around me is shaking.
Psalm 111 is a wisdom hymn. It talks about a world that God clearly rules. In it, the speaker reflects on God’s provision and faithfulness. Sometimes we can focus solely on that provision and faithfulness, but sometimes our hearts are broken and we are confronted with the brokenness of the world. That is the kind of place my prayer comes from.
The prayer below shouldn’t be read as a translation or commentary. Instead, Psalm 111 served as a model and starting point for my personal prayer, although the original Hebrew, the Greek translation, and my wider studies in the OT have influenced my prayer. (If you have a question about how my studies influenced something particular in my prayer, feel free to ask in the comments.)
Praying Psalm 111
Let us praise You, Lord—in every circumstance; despite every circumstance.
Help me to praise You with the entirety of my being, even though I feel surrounded by loss.
Help me to see and tell of Your goodness no matter where I am: among those who love You and among those who may not.
Great are Your works. I am surrounded by them. I see the beauty and majesty of Your creation. I have seen Your answers to prayer. You have gifted Your people with Your word. No matter my circumstances, I can see these things. I can reflect on them. I can thank You for them. I can stop and allow them to show me Your nature and Your faithfulness. Help me to stop in the midst of my everyday craziness and reflect on Your works and what they teach me about You.
You tell us that Your righteousness endures forever. Sometimes it’s easy for me to echo that statement. Honestly, though, as I look around the world that You created and see its brokenness, it can be hard to see how Your people reflect that quality; myself included. You have called us to put the needs of others ahead of our own. You have called us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You have called us to justice, holiness, and peace. Yet even within our church walls we fail at this. Please, transform the hearts of Your people—that we may reflect the cruciform image of Jesus; that we may be Your hands and feet with an allegiance to You above any worldly powers or agendas. May Your reign come and Your will be done in the hearts and lives of Your people! I confess that all too often it is easy to just go on dealing with my daily life and to forget about the bigger picture. Help me to see and love others as You do, especially those who are different from me. Fill me with Your grace and compassion. Show me how to demonstrate Your love to each person I meet today.
I thank You for Your faithfulness to Your promises and covenant. Throughout Your word we see examples of Your faithfulness in spite of human unfaithfulness. You deliver. You provide. You instruct. You call. You equip. I thank You for Your Spirit that works in Your people.
Your instruction given to us throughout Your word is trustworthy. You have established it forever. Jesus came to fulfill the Scriptures, not to abolish what had come before. His life on earth gives us a picture of what it means to be truly human and live as You desire. Help us to see where we fall short. Transform us to be more like Jesus through the work of Your Spirit. Show me today where I need to change and surrender things to You, especially in my small, daily choices. Transform me.
I thank You that You work in the lives of Your people. May we not only echo the teaching that fearing You is the beginning of wisdom. Help us to live it every day.
You, Lord, are holy. You are faithful. You are gracious. To You and You alone belong eternal praise. Lord, move in Your people. May we praise You not only with our lips, but also with our lives. Amen.
3 Ideas for Our Prayers
If you’ve read Psalm 111 lately, you probably noticed significant differences between my prayer and the original text. Sometimes, like the psalmist, we can focus solely on praising God’s character and works; but sometimes our hearts are broken and we are confronted with the brokenness of the world. In just such a place I have chosen to blend my praise and prayer. I am choosing to seek and to trust God in spite of my circumstances, letting my praise lead me to prayer for His kingdom to come. Here are a few ideas for praying hymns no matter where you are:
- Praise & prayer: I didn’t worry about changing the tone to reflect where I’m at. The psalm itself is heavily focused on praising God and affirming His goodness. Those points are in my prayer, but I also dealt with the world as I’m experiencing it right now. That means that I focused more on praying that God’s goodness will become evident in the world around me and that we as His people will exhibit His character.
- Structure: While Psalm 111 served as a starting point, my prayer is really rooted in my own stream of consciousness. After I had expressed my thoughts on a particular line or verse, I would move on to the next one. Sometimes I would find that my thoughts on that next line had already been expressed, so I just kept going.
- Personal & communal: My prayer goes back and forth between personal expressions and prayer for the wider church. If we are praying for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done, it isn’t just about us as individuals. Just because one particular part of my prayer is communal and another is personal, though, doesn’t mean that I think a particular doesn’t apply to me. It’s just how it came out.
My approach to praying this hymn isn’t the only one. It’s just what it has looked like for me lately. I’d love to hear about how you are praying or have prayed the psalms!
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