Eugene Peterson loves the psalms.
He has helped me to love them, too. And to use them as my guide for prayer.
I start at the beginning. Starting with Psalm 1 I read a psalm each day when I sit down to think, pray, and journal.
I don't care if the psalm fits with my mood, or my concerns, or what is on my mind. I just read the next psalm in order. There is something steady about this plan, solid beyond my flimsy whims and fancies.
I read the psalm slowly; sometimes aloud, sometimes to myself, whatever seems right.
I often read one verse at a time, pausing to see if the Spirit wants to speak to me through that verse, or if perhaps my spirit - sparked by that verse - has something to say to God.
Sometimes nothing really happens. That is ok.
Sometimes I pray in ways that don't fit with the verse or the psalm I just read. That is ok.
But sometimes the words I read in the ancient poetry of the psalms connect with my heart, my life, my struggles in ways so profound I barely have to add my own words.
Whatever happens I keep reading, and I keep praying ... psalm after psalm after psalm after psalm.
I just finished a round, from the beginning to the end - all the psalms read and prayed through.
And though I am looking at other biblical places to land, my heart decided to go back to Psalm 1 and simply start over. Fresh things will happen for sure.
This is what Peterson says about the psalms:
"We learn to listen reverently and attentively by praying the psalms ...
the psalms are poetry, as distinguished from prose ...
Poetry is language used with personal intensity.
It is not, as so many suppose, decorative speech.
Poetry is designed not to teach us about God, but to train us in responding to him.
Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us.
Poets use words to drag us into the depth of reality itself.
They do it not by reporting on how life is but by pushing and pulling us into the middle of it.
Poetry grabs for the visceral."
I don't know about you, but for me, in this distracted and distracting age, I need something that "grabs for the visceral" to wake me out of my stupor and shake me awake to the presence of God around me, and within me.
Thank you, God, for the psalms ...