Speaking with a friend last week, I was prodded to start reading and praying the Psalms again. He’s been doing this every day for the past eight or so years and told me how helpful he’s found it. Then a few days later I came across this, from Eugene Peterson on how praying the Psalms changes us and helps us grow up in God’s world.
The Psalms are the preeminent witness to our praying participation as we read or listen to God’s word…They don’t simply say, “Yes God, I agree. Yes that’s right, I couldn’t have said it better myself.” Or, “Yes, would you say that again so I can write it down and show it to my friends.” No, they argue and complain, they lament and they praise, they deny and declaim, they thank and they sing. On one page the accuse God of betraying and abandoning them and on the next the turn cartwheels of hallelujahs. Sometimes we suppose that the proper posture of response to God as we read the Bible is to be curled up in a wingback chair before a cozy fire, docile and well-mannered…The Psalms show us something quite different: prayer is engaging God, an engaging that is seldom accomplished by a murmured greeting and a conventional handshake. The engagement, at least in its initial stages, is more like a quarrel than a greeting, more like a wrestling match than a warm embrace.
And how could it be otherwise? This world, this reality, revealed by God speaking to us, is not the kind of world to which we are accustomed. It is not a neat and tidy world in which we are in control – there is mystery everywhere that takes considerable getting used to, and until we do it scares us. It is not a predictable, cause-effect world in which we can plan our careers and secure our futures – there is miracle everywhere that upsets us no end, except for the occasions when the miracle is in our favor. It is not a dream world in which everything works out according to our adolescent expectations – there is suffering and poverty and abuse at which we cry out in pain and indignation, “You can’t let this happen!” For most of us it takes years and years and years to exchange our dream world for the real world of grace and mercy, sacrifice and love, freedom and joy.
Using the Psalms as a school of prayer, praying these prayers we get a feel for what is appropriate to say as we bring our lives into attentive and worshipping response to God as he speaks to us. (Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 104f.)