I have been thinking recently about the Psalms. How do we relate to God? How do we pray?
For years, I asked this question. I read book after book, spoke to people just trying to work out how it is that we are meant to pray. Some said ‘you must call God daddy, or papa’ some said ‘it is a personal choice’ some said ‘talk to him like you would talk to someone in the room’.
Some of the suggestions made were helpful, others made me feel uncomfortable and I continued on my mission to discover ‘how to pray’. On this journey there were two books that had a huge impact on my prayer life for different reasons, but which I read simultaneously. These were God on Mute by Pete Grieg, and The Shack by William P. Young.
I think read together they so transformed my ideas of who God is and should be that I had to start all over again just reading the bible. God on Mute taught me that in the silence there is faith. There is hope in the unexpected and knowledge that now is not what life is all about. Silence is heartbreaking, but it is also an opportunity to stand on the strength of the bible and in the knowledge, that sometimes, when perhaps we least expect it God might whisper, occasionally bellow, and create in us such joy that can carry us on through many silences more.
The Shack taught me that every image of God I had, I had to dismiss. I don’t know who God is, beyond the fact that he loves me with a love so overwhelming he has offered me a place at his side for eternity. What more do I need to know? Do I need to have a picture of his face in my head? Or is it enough to know that he is beyond my comprehension, and yet desperate enough to spend time with me that he sent his own son, a part of himself, to allow him to be brutally murdered. That is enough. In the silence, in the bellowing, that is enough.
So, back to psalms. Prayer is a tricky old thing. Whilst going through these two books I got into the bible in a whole other way. Wanting to explore more of the unknown and getting more excited about the God I claimed to adore and serve.
All those years I spent asking ‘how to pray’ all I had to do was read the Psalms. Not because they give you a handy step by step guide, but because they open up the possibilities of prayer.
They open our eyes to passion, anger, love, might, grace, hope and so much more. The psalmists had an understanding of God that is so often easy to miss. He loves us and he is God.
I have often heard ‘it is OK to get angry with God – read the Psalms’ but no one ever pointed out to me that even in the angriest psalms there is always at least one line that acknowledges the Might and Glory of God. The magnitude of who God is, what he is willing to both do for us and tolerate from us is unbelievable. Throughout history power has corrupted person after person, yet here is the God that created the galaxies as art beyond our imagining, not corrupted, even a little.
When we pray, we must, first and foremost – before thanks, repentance and please, remember who we are speaking to. Both friend and creator. Prayer is a gift, that we have access to God at all is grace, we need expect no more as he has already given everything and yet the Psalms, the gospels, the whole new testament, show us that we can expect so much more. Not because God should, but because he wants to.
I often hear Christians speak of God’s promises and all he has said they will have, ‘he should have done it by now’ the anger they speak of is without reverence, without awe at the friendship they find themselves in. Life is frustrating, and at times it seems it is all going wrong. That God is not keeping his side of the bargain, that he really doesn’t seem to be fulfilling the promises we find abundantly scattered throughout the bible. We are told we can bring that before God, but do so in such a way that reminds you, at least once, that you are in the presence of the creator of all.