Reflections by Jerry Webber

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More Psalms for Prayer

Praying psalms from the Hebrew Scriptures has been an important part of my prayer practice for years. I know that many folks have difficulty with psalms because some of them express rage, partisanship and violent urges.

To be sure, the Old Testament Psalms are not meant to be sources of doctrine. To draw theological truth from them is like fishing for salmon in a South Texas lake. You're not likely to catch any.

Rather, the psalms come to us as the prayers of people in the midst of real-life angst. While the situations certainly were different for the persons praying the psalms, they no less were entangled in life-as-it-is, not life-as-it-should-be. The psalms help ground us in life-as-it-is, the real life you and I live. Further, the psalms say to us that it's ok to pray life-as-it-is, as opposed to the lofty and exalted prayer of life-as-it-should-be.

Thus, these prayers are raw and edgy, and a bit outside the mainstream. They are not interested in pretense, and they don't pretend to be polite. They engage God in the honest stuff of life. They don't coat over life with bows and fluffy bunnies. They remind me that God can handle my anger and that discourse with God is an appropriate expression for the full spectrum of my inner emotional world.

From the Hebrew Psalms, I first learned the value of honesty before God. I came to sense that God could handle my honesty about life and that even though my perspective on life was skewed, it was still the way I experienced life. And even that skewed perspective was appropriate for prayer.

I mentioned in the last post a psalm book that I recently found to be helpful in my prayer. I referenced a psalm from that book.

Today I'll post a psalm from another book I've come upon lately. This one appeals to me as a rendition of the Hebrew Psalter from the hands of a Jewish woman with a poetic background. I have found her images for God to be fresh and insightful, and her perspective as a woman to be another helpful doorway through which to enter the Psalms. Her name is Pamela Greenberg and her translation is The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation.

This is how she renders Psalm 62:

For the Conductor of the Eternal Symphony,
To the Beloved, a Psalm of David

In the face of the Creator alone, my soul is silenced;
my salvation comes from the Source of Life.

Only God is my Rock and salvation,
my high place of refuge;
with my Upholder I will not stumble much.

How long will you fall upon a man?
You will slay yourselves, all of you.

You are like a leaning wall,
a fence crumbling under its own weight.

For loftiness alone
they conspire to bring me down.

They delight in deception;
with their mouths they bless
but inwardly they curse -- Selah!

Only God is my Rock and salvation --
my high place of refuge;
with the Holy One I will not stumble.

God is my salvation and my glory,
Rock of my strength, one I turn to for help.

Trust the Source of Life at all times, O people,
pour out the contents of your heart.

God is our shelter -- Selah.

In truth, humanity is nothing but vapor;
an illusion they are, all the children of women and men.

Weighed on the scales, all of them together,
they are lighter than breath.

Do not trust those who wield emblems of power;
do not empty yourselves in plunder.

Though wealth bears fruit,
don't give to it the entirety of your heart.

One thing God has spoken;
these two I have heard:

true strength comes from the Creator,
and you, my Upholder, provide kindness.

For you bring all people contentment
according to the wealth of their deeds.

[Pamela Greenberg, The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), 128 - 129.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brings to mind that Chapman quote : pray as you can not as you can't.