Isn't everything about connecting with roots
A novice at prayer - the regular practice of creating a connect with God -
asked me recently how I pray.
Like most things, I said, I practice.
To be a good cook, practice.
To be an effective parent, practice.
To excell in sports, practice.
And, to bear fruitful prayer, practice regularly.
My preferred way to pray is what is called praying the liturgy of the hours.
This combination of Psalms from the Sacred Scriptures, coupled with prayers, is the official
prayer of the Church for all the People of God, including the faithful and clergy as well.
It is common for folks to pray these psalms alone or with a community.
Jews and Christians pray the psalms.
The preferred way of praying these 150 psalms that are the river of the synagogue's prayer is singing them.
Whatever is said and done for the believer, it is done by way the human emotions and feelings
felt in these psalms that are like rooms of a lived-in and even, old home, for example.
There is thanks, praise, cursing, and lamenting in the dominant feelings of mad, sad, glad and scared, or variations of these feelings.
All of the drama of life unfolds in the depth of the psalms.
That's why they link us with our ancestors and pilgrims, as it were, in the journey, the trek, not unlike the sojourn in the land of desolation and consolation, of down times, and joyful moments also, along with every feeling in between those markers.
At the Trappist monastery at Gethsemane, Kentucky, miles from Louisville, the late Thomas Merton sang the psalms with other monks numerous times a day from the earliest dawn to
dusk at bed time.
The oneness I feel in chanting the psalms with the monks inspires me so much.
That monastery is a favorite retreat place for respite and recreation in the Maker.
Those same psalms were prayed out loud in song in St. Benedict Monastery in Snowmass, CO., last summer when I joined the monks for retreat in the mountains and valleys of the awesome
beauty there where Trappist Thomas Keating resides.
Opening the Book of Psalms, according to Scripture scholar Caroll Stuhlmueller, a practical
biblical expert, is like walking into a home, lived in for many generations.
There one finds photos and mementos, ancient and new, that blend together.
Some are faded or folded, while others are well preserved.
Grandparents know the story and its line that connects those who traverse the home over and over again.
Wise are the ancestors in faith to whom we turn to tell us about the sacred home, the rooms of the psalms, if you like, their house of prayer, the Book of Psalms.
Psalm 70 is well preserved like a family homestead,
Others are almost indecipherable, like Psalms 2:1-12 and 141:5-7.
Others, like Psalm 139, use rare Hebrew forms, Arammaic words perhaps, or, endings.
Yet, whatever the problem, this psalm is well loved.
Psalm 69: 23-29 fits the category called the curse or vindictive psalms.
Angry outbursts and rants against the enemy embarrass Jews and Chrsitians alike.
They have been dropped from the liturgical prayer of most churches.
Grudges and feuds still fill homes today.
The psalms, like the home, walk us in the transitions and tragedies of the life we embrace in
various moments of struggle or joy.
Praise of God is obvious in the psalms.
Dark clouds hover over Psalms 1-41 with lament and supplication.
Praise, as in Psalms 8, 19 or 29, at times interrupts the dismal landscape of heartache by the number!
Depression days darken all over in these psalms with tears and groans of individual Jewish people after their return to a devastated homeland around 537 BCE, before the Christian era.
Despite all that, this cluster of psalms is affirmed with its Amen, so be it!
God is in there somewhere, for sure.
Worship in the temple is another room of psalms one enters. Pslams 42-72 fit this set of
praise of God, like Psalm 42:
As the deer craves
running water, I
thirst for you, my God. . .
I cry my heart out,
I remember better days.
Then, there are psalms reflecting as in a mirror, religious reform, psalms 73-89.
Stray pieces seem to be added to the rooms in the home, another group, psalms 90-106
collect these pieces like the toys of a child or a ramp added for the elder's ease of entry.
Finally, there are psalms for the journey and pilgrimages to Jerusalem, psalms 107-150, and those for singing at festivals, psalms 113-118, perhaps after the conquests of Alexander the Great around 300 BCE.
The pslams are a response to the needs of nights or day, and all the moments in between.
We all know the moments.
We walk them daily in dark and light and shades in between.
And, we connect with the Creator.
The psalms help us do that.