Continuing the series on Psalmody, “the continuous and systematic praying or singing of the Psalms.” (see all the Psalmody posts here)
Time for Dietrich Bonhoeffer to weigh in – from his wonderful book, Psalms, Prayerbook of the Bible. You can get this in an inexpensive edition, but if you can swing it, pay a bit more and get the new Complete Works annotated edition that also contains another classic, Life Together.
Bonhoeffer desired to retrieve the Psalms as the prayerbook of Jesus. He interpreted the Psalms as did Luther – seeing Christ in them; speaking in them, as well as being the source of His own prayers.
He saw (praying the Psalms) as side by side, with the Lord’s Prayer; Jesus’ answer to the plea of the Disciples, “Teach us to pray!” The Lord’s Prayer can be seen as the lens through which we read the Psalms. We pray with Jesus in the Psalms.
“Wherever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian Church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”
Praying certainly does not mean simply pouring out one’s heart. It means, rather, finding the way to and speaking with God, whether the heart is full or empty. No one can do that on one’s own. For that we need Jesus Christ.
We learn to pray like a child learns to speak – saying the parent’s words after them. So prayer is answering God. Reading the Psalms in worship services, (something he learned in the Benedictine Monastery experience in England) and having systematic ways of reading the Psalms, are a profound help in forming an independent relationship with God and with God’s Word.
(One example of Bonhoeffer’s personal prayer with the Psalms is a journal entry from his ocean crossing from America to involve himself in wartime Germany. He sights a devotional he used: “Daily Text: ‘It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statures'” [Ps. 119:71]. This was a source of strength as he faced a perilous future. He was working on an exposition of Psalm 119 (his “favorite Psalm”) that was never completed. (This note is from Vol. 15 of the Complete Works, Theological Education Underground.)
Question: Are you using God’s own words in prayer?