08 Feb February Reverend Reflections
One of the great benefits of reading through the entirety of the Psalter is that the many and varied Psalms contained therein simultaneously affirm your feelings while instructing you how to feel. They meet you where you are and they help you make progress. One of the striking things about the Psalms is that even the darkest ones (Psalm 88 being the exception) make some sort of turn towards praise at their end.
In fact, you might take the format laid out in an individual Psalm and blow it up to the size of the entire Psalter and you will see it replayed on a large scale. The entire Psalter, with all its attendant emotions, ends in praise. Psalms 145-150 are psalms of praise and so it proves true that if you are going to read the psalms—either one-at-a-time or in their totality—they will always move you towards praise.
This may be the design of the Psalter because praise is the form of speech most appropriate for dependent and contingent creatures like us, regardless of how we are feeling at any given moment. Your emotions are valid and might be justified, but praise is necessary. Everything we are and possess is a gift. Life itself, no matter how miserable and difficult it can be, is a gift. The pattern of the Psalter is the pattern of life itself. Like the Psalter, the passing of time is moving us towards praise. During our many years on this earth we experience a wide range of emotions and yet it all ends in praise when at the end of life we join the communion of saints in the presence of Jesus.
Therefore, to quote the Eucharistic liturgy, “it is right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere to give thanks to God.” It is for his own glory that God created us. Praise is the activity that most fulfills our purpose in life.
It is a healthy practice, therefore, to pray in such a way that encourages not just petition, but praise. Being forced into daily praise instills in us the pattern of worship as God intends. This may mean that you are simply praying the psalms. It is impossible to go wrong there.
Another resource, though, that actually includes the psalms as part of a larger service of prayer is the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. The Daily Office is what is included in the prayer booklets we make available at First Pres. every four months. After a confession of sin there is a turn towards praise. “Lord open my/our lips,” the turn begins, “and my/our mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Here is a reminder that praise is fitting for those who have received a pardon from God alongside all the other blessings of this life. There is plenty of space within the service to list out your sorrows and concerns, but one cannot get there without first acknowledging our obligation towards praise.
In order to help you mix praise in with your petitions here is a beautiful prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that could be read every day.
“Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side. We thank you for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone. Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his word and the example of his life; for this steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he conquered death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.”
May you find comfort from God for all that concerns you and may you find fulfillment in praise.
Grace and peace,