“I’m not into poetry.”
SO SAID a participant in our Thursday afternoon Bible Study. I’m pretty much the same as that parishioner.
But it reminded me that we don’t always read to please ourselves.
One of our 8 o’clockers used to go and read poetry to another church member who was in Hospice care. Even though the reader enjoyed poetry, she wasn’t basking in the words for her own pleasure. She was reading them out loud to bring pleasure to a dying friend.
Ever read bedtime stories to kids? The little ones will often pick a favorite and want it read over and over, night after night. The reader loses all pleasure in the story - might even come to hate it and never want to hear it again. But the reading goes on because it brings the child such pleasure.
Our Bible groups studied the Psalms a few years ago. It was challenging. We issued “Survivor” certificates to those who made it through. Not everybody likes poetry, let alone studying the stuff.
When it comes to the Psalms and other prayers, they are best read not for our own pleasure - not for “what we get out of them” - but because they are God-given prayer language that God enjoys. It’s like God gave us his favorite song list and asked us to play it over and over again.
The Psalms and other traditional Canticles are a big part of daily Morning and Evening Prayer in our tradition. We might learn from them or even come to enjoy them, but that’s not the primary purpose when we offer them in worship. It takes a new way of thinking to use them this way. We have to understand that we are offering them up because they please God.
So don’t feel ashamed if you don’t especially enjoy or understand Psalms and other prayers. Just offer them up to God, because you want to please God. And when that is your approach you will be surprised by what you actually do start to get out of it.
(This was my article in the September newsletter for Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls).
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