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 Exploring the Psalms (cont'd)

The Power of the Paraphrase

During an unusually difficult time in my life, I began to write short phrases in the margins of my Bible as I read Psalms that especially spoke to my need. Over time, without any plan or particular goal, these scribbling expanded as I began to put entire Psalms into my own words. As I did so, I found an entirely new depth of meaning coming out of these Psalms, and I began to see in a new way how God wanted to apply them to my personal life. The blessings that have cascaded through my life from my interaction with the Psalms have been incalculable. While I know a part of that change resulted from my acute need for Godís hand in my circumstances, I believe God can deepen any believerís relationship with Him and His Word as they began to get into the Psalms through the practice of paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing utilizes a powerful learning technique, by forcing the reader to first of all grapple with the meaning of the Psalm, and then to express its truth in words and phrases that are familiar to the writer. As applied to the Psalms, paraphrasing is particularly useful because it rarely involves wrestling with difficult doctrinal questions. Instead, the Psalms are a channel between Godís heart and ours that is not difficult to enter but requires a combined effort of both our hearts and our minds Ė a pair that, unfortunately, rarely gets exercised together. But if we begin to truly put ourselves in the scripture in this way, we will find that the truths of scripture in turn become instilled in us, and the reality of Godís sovereign, loving rule of our lives will grow exponentially as well. 

The process of thinking through the meaning of the prayers that comprise the Psalms, then re-forming these thoughts in your own words, will naturally lead you to enter into the prayers themselves, and you will begin to learn at a deeper level to pray as the Psalmist did. You may find, as I did, that the paraphrasing process becomes a combination of reading, writing, meditating, and praying, with no clear distinction between them. Expect to meet God in a delightfully fresh way! 

Making it personal
Because I came to the process of paraphrasing with such a sense of need, it was only natural that I looked for Psalms that fit my need. I soon found that the adaptable nature of many of the Psalms allowed my needs and concerns to be easily inserted in place of the more general cries and petitions, creating what I called a Personal Paraphrase, which then became the basis for prayer. This is a powerful but purely optional approach to the paraphrasing process.

 

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