On the Fuller Studio site, there is a short, beautiful film of Bono (U2) and Eugene Peterson (creator of The Message) speaking on the Psalms. Part of their conversation is facilitated by David Taylor, an assistant professor of theology and culture at Fuller (he was also the Arts Pastor for years at the church I attended in Austin). He asks them to speak of their earliest memories of the Psalms. What Bono says is so much the initial impression I had reading the Psalms as a new believer; he was struck by the utter honesty of the Psalmists.Honesty in joy; honesty in despair.
I have always been deeply thankful for this portion of scripture. The Psalmists lay it all out before God – there is no fear in coming before God, no pretending. Whether they praise Him, confess and repent or bring supplications that almost appear as demands – the Psalms seem to come from the truest place of the soul.
Eugene Peterson speaks of trying to help people understand that “prayer wasn’t being nice before God” but being real, and the Psalms are a model for that.When I was in the middle of my last, difficult pregnancy, I prayed Psalm 20 over and over. I have a terrible tendency to think God is always on the verge of teaching me a painful lesson; that the next step I take will be straight into the refining fire. Psalm 20 was my antidote to that lie.
“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings (Selah). May he give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers them from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O Lord, save the king! Answer us when we call!” ~ Psalm 20
I was basically saying, “God, I’m in distress and I need Your help. I don’t want to learn some lesson, I want You to give me the desire of my heart – that the baby and I would be completely healthy. Be gloried in Your provision for me, in Your anointed. Answer me God!”
The answer to my prayer wasn’t immediate, but just praying like this comforted me; reminded me that I have freedom coming before Him in truth because I am His beloved child.
If you are interested in watching the film, here is the link. David Taylor also offers some reading tips for the Psalms. Another good listen is U2’s song, “40” inspired by Psalm 40.