Exploring the Psalms
Why Are They Unique?
How Should We Use Them?
The Power of the Paraphrase
More About Getting Started
Coupling With Prayer
More Going Deeper
More Going Deeper II
the Psalms (cont'd)
Why are they
In addition to being
prayers in the form of poetry, the Psalms have several other qualities
that make them unique in the scriptures.
They are personal
Although the Psalter became the hymnbook of the nation of Israel, it
wasn’t written by a hymnal committee! Each psalm was first of all the
individual heart cry of a worshipper of Yahweh. Some are the overflow of a
life gripped by fears, dangers and trials. Some express a hunger to know
and worship God more deeply, others the crushing burden of guilt over past
sins. Many psalms contain a combination of these emotions along with
others. We see honest expressions of elation, depression, joys, doubts and
fears - in other words, the full range of human emotions.
They are mirrors
Because they are so personal, they are also mirrors of our own feelings.
John Calvin wrote of the Psalms, “This book I am wont to style an anatomy
of all parts of the soul; for no one will discover in himself a single
feeling whereof the image is not reflected in this mirror.” God meant for
me to be able to see my reflection in the mirror of the Psalms, and know
that I am safe in facing who I am, openly and honestly, before Him.
They are adaptable
Although some of the Psalms dwell on specific circumstances that produced
the cry for help or spontaneous praise, most often we find more general
expressions of need and praise. We find phrases such as “You have been my
stronghold, a refuge in the day of my distress” (Ps. 59:16) and “You have
delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling” (Ps. 56:13). I
can easily apply those thoughts to a variety of circumstances that I might
The universal purpose of the Psalms is also
indicated by the nature of their poetry. Unlike poetry relying on meter or
rhyme, the Hebrew poetic form is called parallelism, where a given thought
is followed and reinforced by a similar or contrasting thought. Although
it does not strike us as being poetry, the impact of the parallel thoughts
is an effective way to reinforce the truths being presented. This form
carries its impact into any language, both as poetry and as God’s truth.
Regardless of whether the reader receives them in English, Russian or
Swahili, the Psalms speak just as powerfully, both in their words and in
They are models
As we have already seen, there
are several reasons to title the entire collection of Psalms “Prayers,” so
it is not surprising that we can think of the book as a collection of
model prayers. The fact that most psalms aren’t more specific allows them
to easily become patterns for us as we struggle with how to express to God
the way we feel.
They are windows
If, as mentioned above, the Psalms can be considered mirrors, showing us
the truth about ourselves, they are as well windows allowing us clear view
of the glory of our God. Look, for example, at Psalm 66:1-4.
How Should We Use Them?