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What Is The Book Of Psalms?

Honesty. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do when we go to the Lord in prayer. Many of us might be excellent at being honest in prayer, and if that’s you, then great! But sometimes our prayer habits are to use fluffy and deceptive words to convey to God that we are more faithful than our hearts are telling us. We are often too tempted to separate our human experience from our relationship with God. Instead, God invites us into his presence, despite our sinful and wrong feelings, to express our heart to him and thus bring him much glory. Enter the Book of Psalms.

The Psalms Reflect the Fullness of Human Experience

The Psalms is a collection of authentic, heartfelt prayers, poetry, and songs written by broken and sinful people who realistically, and sincerely poured out their thoughts and feelings to God. The Psalms were literally sung in churches, and it was called “The Psalter.” They’re not just Psalm-inspired songs. They are word-for-word Psalms put to a tune.

The Psalms work to shape our view of God (theology) and help us to know how to express our praise of God (Doxology). There are psalms of praise, thanksgiving, wisdom, lament, confession, and Messianic Psalms (Psalms that point either directly to Jesus, or Psalms that we know Jesus prayed). There are also very intense Psalms called “imprecatory Psalms,” which often called for God’s judgement on evildoers and enemies.

One thing that I think we often miss is that the Psalms are the genuine expressions of people who love God through and through. If we forget that many of these are basically theequivalent of modern “journal” or “diary” entries for people in the Old Testament then we miss out on the richness of the human experience and its relation to a holy, just, and loving God. I think when we look at the Psalms this way, it helps them make more sense.

There are some incredibly, authentically raw passages in the Psalms. There are violent expressions of hate and judgement. There are expressions of deep sorrow, pain, and confession. At the same time, there are expressions of beauty, joy, forgiveness, and praise. I would say that there are many patterns to follow, and many patterns to learn from, each of these resulting in sanctification, wisdom, and blessing for Christians.

How to Read and Pray the Psalms

Since we are so disconnected from ancient cultures it can be difficult to understand some of the language and poetry being used. Here are some basic things to think through when you read and pray through the Psalms:

1. Read the passage all the way through, identifying any questions you have about some statements.

2. Find the context. Who wrote it? When did they write it? Why did they write it?

3. Ask, how does this fit with God’s narrative of redemptionin Scripture?

4. What does this reveal to me about God’s character and nature?

5. Pray similar prayers or at least in similar structure as the Psalms

Some good advice I’ve gotten about reading the Bible is to read it looking for what it tells me about God. Don’t read it looking for what “I” can get out of it, and don’t try to see yourself in the text. Look for God in Scripture when you read, and you will find yourself loving God more deeply and thoroughly.

Don’t get hung up on the harsh pieces where the Psalmist is being direct and honest with God just because it sounds bad. Instead, try to put yourself in the Psalmist’s shoes.

Jesus prayed the Psalms, and he was honest and sincere with the Father. We should pray the Psalms too. As you pray, be honest and sincere with God. He knows your sins and struggles. He knows your deepest sorrows and woes. So, trust that he’s kind and caring, but also trust that he’s sanctifying and will lead you in paths of righteousness. If you pray the Psalms with these things in mind, I know the Lord will transform you more into the image of Jesus Christ, his son.

The Songs of Ascent

Our next sermon series is on a group of Psalms called, “The Songs of Ascent.” Jerusalem is set on a hill, and many who lived outside of the city would have to walk up that hill to get to their place of worship. As they walked up the hill, they sang these songs together reminding themselves of who God is, what he has done for their people, and what they look forward to when they get to the temple.

It’s almost like when you’re driving your family to 29147 Prospect Circle on a Sunday morning, and on the way, you pull up the ‘Restoration This Week’ Spotify playlist on the Restoration Church Spotify account. The family is listening to the songs we plan to sing at church that morning. That’s what the people of Israel did. They sang songs to remind themselves just how magnificent God is and to enable their hearts to truly worship that God.

This summer we’ll journey through these Psalms and pray that the Lord gives us the kind of eagerness to bring praise, honor, and glory that the Israelites sought to bring. The kind of worship that the Lord deserves. Let’s gear ourselves toward a summer of celebration for all that the Lord has brought us through, recognizing that his mercies truly are new every morning.

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