Apparent tensions in the Psalms

By Dave Henning / August 1, 2021

“These apparent tensions in the Psalms begin to make sense only in the experience of honest prayer.  In coming out of hiding, you will come to realize that you often have conflicting feelings and thoughts about God, yourself, and prayer.  Sharing these feelings is part of abiding.  Sharing these struggles affirms that God can hear them, and that he already knows them, even before you pray.”- Kyle Strobel and John Coe

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”- Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

As Kyle and John continue in Chapter 5 of Where Prayer Becomes Real, they stress one thing praying through the Psalms unveils.  This spiritual practice unveils the ways we want prayer to be simple, perhaps even simplistic.  On the one hand, for example, in Psalms 105 and 106, the psalmist praises God for His steadfast covenant.  But, in Psalms 13, 77, and 88 the psalmist asserts that God’s forgotten His covenant loyalty.  Hence, the authors ask, Well, which is it?

Above all, the Psalms serve as inspired prayers of God’s people.  Prayers that inform us how to talk to God – in all seasons of our spiritual lives.  As a result, the authors cite Walter Brueggemann, who describes three general types of psalms.  Those types connect with three kinds of seasons in our spiritual lives.  The types are:

  1. Psalms of orientation – psalms of faith.  When God’s ways aren’t clear to our sight, these psalms name the truth of God’s world.
  2. Psalms of disorientation – psalms of hope.  Because as we bring our struggles, pains, and longings, we do so in the hope that God hears and redeems them.  Although God may not take us out of this season right away, these psalms point to our true hope.
  3. Psalms of reorientation – psalms of love.  These psalms help us bask in the truth that our loving God will make all things right.  His love will endure forever.

Today’s question: How do you balance the apparent tensions in the Psalms?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Pray the truth – it’s in the Bible”

About the author

Dave Henning

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