For Christmas, my husband gave me a copy of Thomas Merton’s Praying the Psalms, both because he is actively supporting my prayer journey, and because he and I are co-teaching a Sunday School class on the Psalms.
Yesterday I read the following passage, which I thought was really powerful:
“It is quite possible that our lack of interest in the Psalms conceals a secret lack of interest in God. For if we have no real interest in praising Him, it shows that we have never realized who He is. For when one becomes conscious of who God really is, and when one realizes that He who is Almighty, and infinitely Holy, has “done great things to us,” the only possible reaction is the cry of half-articulate exultation that bursts from the depths of our being in amazement at the tremendous, inexplicable goodness of God to men.”
So true. If we had even the slightest understanding of how good God is, then the only thing we could do is burst forth into praise for Him. We’d be little Mexican jumping beans, spontaneously and ceaselessy boucing about in joyful praise of God’s grace and glory. So what are we doing sitting still, or worse yet, rushing endlessly from one thing to the next without any sense of the need to praise God?
“The Psalms are all made up of such cries – cries of wonder, exultation, anguish or joy. The very concreteness of their passion makes some of them seem disjointed and senseless. Their spontaneity makes them songs without plan, because there are no blueprints for ecstasy.”
I’ve never been one to pay much attention to the Psalms. It’s only been since Max and I have begun to lead this class on the Psalms that I’ve started to really focus on them and understand the authenticity with which they express the human condition. They praise, they worship, they whine, they cuss, they despair. And Merton’s comments help me to see that the even though the Psalms don’t always read (to me) like great poetry, therein lies the beauty: that they reflect true human conversation with God – uncensored, unedited, mixed up, raw.
This is good news. We don’t have to be good prayers. We don’t have to think carefully about our words or worry that we are not expressing ourselves in beautiful prose. It is enough that we pray: that we praise God, complain to God, question God, listen to God. That is indeed enough. And thus, we are free to jump around like those silly beans making whatever noise we can in response to God’s goodness. And therein lies the poetry.