On reading the PsalmsI love to read the prayers that Brueggemann writes, because they take me to places I don’t normally go in my own prayers. As Brueggemann says, the best prayers engage in candor about our lives, practice vulnerability, run risks, and rest in confident trust. When we pray our hearts are opened, our secrets are exposed, and our desires are made known.
You speak words of promise, and we answer.
A thousand times we answer,
in a thousand tongues –
we answer in hymns of praise,
we answer in songs of thanksgiving,
we answer in lyrics of gladness,
we answer in abrasive anger,
we answer in deep abandonment.
We answer and draw close to you.
And in answering we are changed:
come to truth
bound in obedience.
We answer and are yours, all yours,
not our own,
yours, and glad that we belong to you our faithful savior.
Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann, p. 169
I would love to say that I could write prayers that acknowledge our flaws and push us to the joy that can only be experienced in God’s presence, but I am not comfortable with public prayer. I don’t know if it was growing up UCC or just my introverted side that comes out, but I find coming up with the words for public prayer a challenge. I would love to be full of the elegance and provocation that Brueggemann can pray. I would love to be able to speak with the passion, longing, and joy of the psalmists, but part of me is afraid to dare. So I invite you to dare with me this summer, to pray.
In Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayers for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Clairborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. They argue that we must pray and then be ready to become the answer to our prayer. As they argue we could spend time trying to plead with God to do something or we could see prayer as convincing ourselves to do what God wants. “We need to pray like everything depends on God, and live like God has no other plan but the church”(p. 117). God has no one else; we are the ones we have been waiting for. Their book pushes me to think of prayer as more than words or an attitude, but as a practice to be lived out.
So how do we learn to pray? The Psalms hint at a life of prayer that is passionate and thoughtful. They push us to be in a full-bodied relationship with God. When we read and sing the Psalms we can experience all the depths of emotion. We experience anger, confusion, longing, questioning, trauma, awkwardness, praise, thanksgiving, personal devotion. There is so much that we can learn about how we speak to and of God. I hope all of us can learn to be open to God and learn to express what is calling us whether it be hurt or thanksgiving, longing or certainty, fear or comfort. The psalms show us how to live a life a prayer and honesty before and with God.