Being in the Word
In over 30 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve found that two of the most common struggles Christian believers talk about is having a consistent prayer life and consistently being in the Word of God. If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably encountered these same struggles. And if you’re struggling with these things right now, I want to encourage you to pick up a Bible and turn to the Psalms. Here are a few ways that the Psalms can help you…
Learn to pray
Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible. If you want to learn how to pray, this is where to begin. You will find 150 prayers that are directly inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
In the New Testament book called the Acts of the Apostles, we’re told that the early church had four priorities: They gave themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of break (communion) and to the prayers (Acts 2:42). The prayers were, of course, the book of Psalms. They were praying the Psalms.
Evangelicals have often placed a great deal of emphasis on spontaneous prayer. But some Christians find this difficult. You hear others praying and you wish that you could pray like them. Where do you begin? The answer is the book of Psalms.
This is the textbook for God’s school of prayer. Immerse yourself in it and you will learn to pray. Learn to pray and you will say, like David, “Blessed is the man… [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Expand the capacity of your heart
Every human experience you will ever have is described right here in the Psalms: You find ecstatic joy and the depths of depression. You find faith and you find doubt. You find peace and you find raging anger. John Calvin described the Psalms as “an anatomy of the soul.”
God has given us the whole range of human experience in a book of poetry. That is very significant because poetry expands the capacity of the heart. Poetry has become the interest of only a few in our society today. When did you last read a poem? With the exception of choosing Hallmark cards, there are not many places where we typically engage with poetry.
Instead, we have scads and scads of prose. I looked up the word “prose” in the dictionary and this is what it said…
- Ordinary, non-metrical form of written or spoken language.
- Plain, matter-of-fact quality; tedious discourse.
The word “prose” gives rise to our word “prosaic,” which means: “Like prose, lacking poetic beauty, unromantic, commonplace, dull.” So if your wife says to you, “Honey, you are so… prosaic,” that is not a good thing. And if the truth be told… some of us are rather prosaic.
We live in the world of sports and contracts and bottom lines, having highly-developed minds, splendidly athletic bodies and, often times, underdeveloped souls. We’re not sure how to love, how to be happy, how to grieve or how to be angry. Some of us find it very difficult to get in touch with our own feelings.
Maybe you want to feel more than you do, but you don’t know how. Have you ever thought about the fact that you need to cultivate your heart every bit as much as you need to exercise your body? Paul prays that Christian believers will be so rooted in love that we may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that love that passes knowledge (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Our problem is one of capacity. Knowing the love of Christ is like pouring an ocean into a thimble. We only know a little of God’s love, not because there’s so little of it, but because we can only contain a little of it. There’s an ocean of God’s love to be received and then given. The great question is: How do I expand my capacity to receive the love of God, and then to channel that same love to those God has placed around me?
The Psalms are the place to begin. More than any other part of Scripture, the Psalms will expand the capacity of your heart and give you a growing love for being in the Word of God, “Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law… The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:70-72).
Listen to Christ
Whose prayers are recorded in the Psalms? Various authors wrote down these prayers, but the Psalms, like the rest of the Scriptures, were breathed out by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. More than that, Jesus used these Psalms in his own life. These are His prayers and when you make them your own, there is a very profound sense in which you are praying with Jesus.
These are the prayers of Christ, because they were breathed out by the Spirit of Jesus and because they were used in the life of Jesus. You can be confident that as you immerse yourself in them, you’ll find not only that you’re able to speak to Christ, but that He will speak to you.