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psalms: learning to pray

July 6, 2011

During the summer, our congregation takes time to focus our attention on the Psalms. We emphasize one Psalm per week. We started this practice last summer and worked through Psalms 1 through 8. This summer, we are picking up right where we left off with Psalm 9.

Why do we do this?

When we were young, our parents taught us certain patterns of speech. Our mothers and fathers would teach us to say “Please”, “Thank You” and “I’m sorry”.  They knew the life-long importance of becoming skilled in these language forms and heart dispositions. They also knew that we were not born with the ability to talk in this way. We had to learn how to do it.

It works the same way with God. Whether you are a Christian or not, we are not born with the innate ability to know how to speak with God. Like children, we have to learn how to speak with God.

We learn this language the same way we learn any other languages: by hearing and repeating the speech of others. This is how the Psalms are a great gift to us. God gave us the Psalms to teach us how to pray.  They are the prayers of other people that we first hear. We then take those prayers into our own mouths and begin to repeat them. This is how we learn the “Vertical Habits” needed to dialog with God

In the Psalms, we learn how to say to God “Thank you!”, “You are simply amazing!” and “I am ready to follow you.” We also learn how to cry out to God and say, “Why?” and “Where have you gone?” and “I’m sorry”. The Psalms prepare us to engage with God in every possible life circumstance.

So that’s what we will be doing for the next couple of months. I’d encourage you to give yourself to learning these practices as we worship each week.

PS Here are some additional links for further reflection on Vertical Habits.

1) Bruce Benedict has two helpful blog posts (Part 1) & (Part 2)

2) Here is a sermon I preached last year.

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