21 DAYS IN THE WORD - TOOL 20 - PSALMS, POETRY, AND PRAYER
Some of the most powerful tools God has given us in His word include psalms, hymns, and prayers. These have special power not just to help our minds but to also inspire, heal, and direct our hearts through life’s emotional twists and turns. Ephesians 5:19-20says, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We see in the context that these psalms have a specific benefit not just to give clarity to our minds but to help us be filled with the Spirit.
The Psalms, prayer, and poetry of the Bible help us accentuate our joy and pray our tears. They help our spirit give expression to God in ways that release burdens and help us speak prayers in alignment with His will that change the world. As you go through the psalms in particular you see how they give voice to every different kind of emotion that we go through in our journey with the Lord. It is a blessing to know that living in the Spirit doesn’t mean to stuff down our feelings and just be logical. Living by the Spirit means really feeling and giving voice to our deepest thoughts, hurts and emotions even if they are negative and full of grief. It’s an encouragement to know that even the most godly saints have wrestled with the darkest kinds of emotions.
I mentioned earlier how Jesus on the cross quoted Psalm 22. It begins with a very negative tone, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” As the Psalmist prays through his many feelings he comes to the end and declares, “I will declare Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” (vs. 22) When people are living in denial they just give lip service to words that they don’t really mean. “It’s all good,” I’ve heard people say on the outside when they were really cursing on the inside. But when we process our hurts, fears, griefs, and traumas with God, His Spirit joins with our spirits in groans underneath that eventually give way with Spirit-birthed faith, hope, and joy. It is in pouring out our hearts, that the inner rivers of the Spirit can flow through our emotions. Reading the Psalms as prayers can help us do this.
I think it is significant that David who wrote so many Psalms is called a “man after God’s own heart.” Part of the reason that He pleased God so much was that he was so authentic and real in processing things. He not only poured out tears but with songs of praise would go into full on dancing before the Lord.
Here are some thoughts about using the prayers psalms and poetry of the Bible as tools.
1. See beyond the literal meaning of the words. In Poetry and Psalms imagery and feelings are expressed that tap into the emotional side of truth. When Psalms tell us we can hide under God’s wings, He is not saying that God has feathers like a mother hen. He wants you to feel the warmth and safety a little chick would feel when it’s mom would run to spread out her wings over the chick to protect her. When you read David’s rage expressed in ways that would say things like “may their teeth be shattered and their bones grounded up into dust.” God is not wanting to teach you how to get even with people that hurt you. He is giving us permission to feel our most angry and hurt feelings before Him, so that we can receive peace and the power to forgive and move on. It is interesting that all five of the phases of grief are expressed over and over. We read denial and shock, anger, bargaining, depression, all leading to God empowered acceptance.
2. Identify the emotions that are expressed in the Psalms or Poetry books. Reflect on times you have felt those same things and imagine how you could choose to process them before the Lord. This is good not only with the negative but the positive as well. I remember reading in Song of Solomon 2:10 the words, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” It was like I could imagine the Lord finding me hiding in a cave, having been lost and crushed. That was the way I was feeling. But I could imagine Him calling me out of the cave and carrying me to a ship and rescuing me back to a safe shore. I let myself feel His passion and jealousy for me, and desire to bring me back to a place of victory in my spirit.
3. Find prayers and make them your own putting your circumstances and feelings into the dialogue with the Lord. I love Psalm 3:1-5 for example. “Lord, how they have increased that trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me, many say of him there is no help for him in God. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up head. I cried to the Lord with my voice and He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.”
I quoted this but added the list of my struggles and what I feel are the lies and hopeless thoughts that the devil was telling me. But then I imagined the Lord rushing in like a mighty warrior, putting up a shield surrounding me telling me it was okay, and seeing myself lying down quietly and sleeping under his protection. I learned a song based on this verse as well and have often sung it to myself as I laid in bed.
I pray you will find the great joy I have found in using the tools of the Psalms, the prayers, and the poetry of God’s word.