Prayer is like breathing.
As breathing is essential to our physical life, so prayer is essential to our spiritual life. We need to breathe; we can’t not breathe, if we’re going to live. So it is with prayer—even if all we seem to manage is the occasional “God, help me!” or a desperate “Lord, have mercy!”
Here’s the thing about breathing: while it’s an involuntary action, something our body just does, there are good and bad ways to breathe. We can learn to breathe better, whether we’re resting or running, stressing or swimming, speaking or singing.
Prayer is the same way. For Christians it’s an instinctive thing, a respiration of the spirit to the rhythms of the Spirit. Yet we can learn to do it better in all different kinds of situations: in quiet meditation, in corporate worship, in times of great anxiety, in times of raw rage, in times of exultant joy.
Enter the Psalms.
The Psalms have been the Church’s prayer book since Jesus, inherited from the worship of ancient Israel. And there’s a good reason why the Psalms have endured for so long: they express the full range of human emotions—anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, shame, confusion—and they express them directly, unfiltered, to God.
The Psalms are, almost entirely, prayers. Poetic prayers, lyrical prayers, prayers set to song. Prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of lament, prayers of trust, prayers of imprecation, prayers of praise. They are all these things and more, yet they are, at bottom, simply prayers.
They are not first and foremost divine words to human beings, but all-too-human words to ourselves, to one another, and ultimately to God. We may well hear God’s voice through the Psalms, but if we do it’s only by first hearing our voice in them.
And so the Psalms, the Church’s prayer book, can and should shape the way we pray—for whatever we might face, individually and collectively, in the ups and downs of life.
Over the next eight weeks as a church we will be reflecting on prayer and the Psalms. We will sing the Psalms together, we will read the Psalms together, we will pray the Psalms together, and we’ll even hear some original psalms from fellow Morden Mennonites. And together, we will learn to breathe again. Join us if you can, won’t you?