Monday, June 8, 2015

Psalm 138

I seem to be on a bit of a psalm kick lately.

Fortunately, the lectionary provides at least one psalm every week! So I don't have to look very far to find a psalm to explore with the congregation.

(Don't know what the "lectionary" is? No problem! Check this out.)

I ALSO seem to be on a bit of a prayer kick lately as well. And since psalms and prayers go together so well, I decided we'd try to write our own "mini-psalm" based on Psalm 138.

(Download a copy here.)
We explored together the pattern of "trouble, prayer, and help" that is so prevalent in an "individual psalm of thanksgiving" like this one.

So we did our best--me asking questions, the congregation giving their best guesses--to discover the story behind the psalm. We can see that some sort of trouble has happened to anger the author's enemies (verse 7). And we also see that when the author cried out to God (prayer in verse 3), God helped by making the author strong and brave (verse 3) and stopping the anger of his enemies (verse 7).
The REST of the verses, we discovered, had to to with giving thanks to God for the way he answered the author's prayer: "Lord, I will praise you with all of my heart" (verse 1). 
After reflecting on a time our own lives followed this "trouble, prayer, help" pattern, we attempted to use the words of Psalm 138 to write our own mini-psalms of thanksgiving as a way of responding to answered prayer. (Just like the psalmist!) I played a short song while the congregation worked on their psalms.

These were the examples I included in the bulletin:

This one following the theme of HELP:
Click to enlarge

And this one, the theme of PRAISE:
Click to enlarge

I was hoping someone would be willing to share their mini-psalm out loud once we finished but they were too shy to share. Though that frustrated me a bit, the fact that I saw most heads bent over their papers while the song was playing showed me they WERE participating; they just didn't feel confident enough to read their prayers out loud. 

I'm discovering this "learning to pray" thing is an on-going process. People either have very little confidence in their prayers or are very afraid of being judged. Knowing the very soft heart of this congregation, I highly suspect it's the first, not the second. 

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