By Ben Butler
My First Serious Introduction to the Psalms. The Psalms have almost literally been my daily companion in a concentrated way for a number of years now. I was introduced to a devotional book A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants by Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck in 2002. A key feature of this guide is the encouragement to daily seek God and pray using the Psalms, with a Psalm assigned for each week and encouragement to pray that Psalm daily. The assigned Scripture readings also included the Scripture readings from the Church year, which include a selection from the Psalms. While I was somewhat sporadic, the Psalms became very important in my own relationship with God in subsequent years. Psalm 25:4-5 and Psalm 139:23-24 were my frequent and earnest prayers. I believe God honored and answered those prayers more times than I could even imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
The Psalms: My Lifeline to God. In Fall 2007, after a grueling and deflating experience doing Clinical Pastoral Education in a large university hospital, I came back to using Job and Shawchuck’s Guide, especially delving into the Psalms regularly. I came away from the CPE experience feeling as if I had nothing to offer in ministry. The Psalms came alive to me. I remember offering up my desperation in the words and in the spirit of Psalm 130:1-2 — “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” I found this matched my sense of desperation. I then found the sense of confident faith expressed at the end of the Psalm filling me with hope as I likewise made these words of the Psalmist my own: “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:7-8). Psalm 3 also ministered deeply to me, for as I battled those voices of defeatism and discouragement, I found a companion of like-testing: “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God” (Psalm 3:1-2). Of course, I recognize that in Psalm 130 a sense of need for God’s forgiveness is the source of the original desperation, and Psalm 3 is not speaking of one having self-confidence or faith in one’s own human abilities. But the sense of desperation and doubt-sowing resonated with me even though the particular issues were not exactly the same. However, the same Divine Source of help is needed for whatever issue, and these Psalms helped me to turn with faith and hope to the LORD our God who made heaven and earth and not to myself or to giving up!
An Invitation & Experiment. I hope that you will find the daily dive into the Psalms to be as important and rewarding in connecting you to God in Jesus Christ as I have. I am not alone in this experience, and I trust as you faithfully seek God in this part of His Word, you will too! Remember, the Psalms are included when Paul wrote to Timothy about the Scriptures being inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:14-17), and it is explicitly affirmed in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit stands behind the Psalms as their ultimate author (see Matthew 22:41-45; see also Acts 1:15-20), by no less than Jesus himself!
Daily Psalm. Read. Pray. Love. Daily. (www.readpraylovedaily.com) was designed with an implicit invitation to delve into the Psalms on a daily and systematic basis. Daily posts invite persons to live with the same Psalm two days in a row and to move through the entire book of Psalms sequentially. The only deviation from this will be when we come to some of the longer Psalms (such as Psalm 119) where I expect to move through that Psalm a portion at a time rather than the whole Psalm on a given day.
Singing the Psalms. I am a lover of music, so I was floored when I was made aware of the idea of “metrical” Psalm singing. Seedbed.com introduced a web-based metrical Psalter that includes 1 or more well-known hymn tunes so that a given Psalm can be sung to a familiar melody. Each day’s post on Read. Pray. Love. Daily. includes a link to that day’s Psalm on bible gateway and an additional “Sing” link that takes you to the appropriate Psalm on seedbed.com. Notice the “play button(s)” above the Psalm on Seedbed. Click on one of those and listen for the piano accompaniment to start. There is also sheet music for each tune for those who find that helpful!
Below is an article link and a teaching video about the Psalms that you may find stimulating. Above all, I pray that God the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit would use our time in the Psalms to reveal Himself, His redemptive grace and love, and His will and ways to us. I pray God will then enable us to respond faithfully and appropriately to His offer of Himself in Jesus Christ to us and for the world!