Saturday, March 12, 2005

Praying the Psalms

I visited Mount Angel Abbey today to hear Konrad Schaefer speak on the Psalms. I love Mount Angel Abbey, and their "Christian in the World" classes are exceptional. This one definitely did not disappoint.

The problem with a lot of current scholarship is that you hear it and then say to yourself, "That's very interesting," but then the next step isn't nearly obvious. The wonderful thing about these teaching sessions at Mount Angel is that the scholars take that next step and discuss why what they're telling you makes a difference for your spiritual life. But I'm a theology geek, so I'm taking what I heard today back to the "that's very interesting level." (Though I will also use what I learned.)

Among his opening advice, Fr. Schaefer said that as a good way into the Psalms you should pick a single psalm and meditate on it every day for a week or more until you are familiar enough with the psalm that you, in essence, become the poet -- the psalm is your prayer. Later, discussing the liturgical significance of the psalms, he said that the psalms are the prayers of the church. When we pray the psalms, we are praying with the Church and as a member of the Church.

Now these are both ideas that I've heard before, but today the two connected in my mind. I am the psalmist. The psalms are the prayers of the Church. You are the psalmist. The psalms are the prayers of the Church. Do you see how big that is?

My prayers, your prayers, aren't just mine and yours -- they are the Church's prayers. They're our prayers individually, each of us calling out of the depths to our God, but then they grow, and they become not just prayers that continue to be ours and the Church lets us toss in the bucket. Our prayers are the prayers of the Church. And the psalms are a vehicle for this amazing process.

Here's something else I connected it to -- Bonhoeffer says somewhere (in Life Together I think) that when we pray the psalms it isn't we who pray but rather Jesus prays the psalms through us. Now join that with the ideas above. My prayers, your prayers, are the prayers of the Church because as we live our lives, as we struggle, Christ is in us, struggling with us, and when we cry out to God, we are, each of us and collectively, crying out to God as Christ.

Praise the Lord O my soul.

2 comments:

LutheranChik said...

My prayers, your prayers, are the prayers of the Church because as we live our lives, as we struggle, Christ is in us, struggling with us, and when we cry out to God, we are, each of us and collectively, crying out to God as Christ.

And, in turn, connect that with the ideas in Christ Present in Faith.

Andy said...

Yes! It's amazing how much Orthodox theology has to offer those of us in the West. I think we would see a revolution in mainline theology if more of our academics would take a look at what Orthodoxy has to say to us, not to mention what we might learn about our own history (such as we are seeing with Luther).