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Thursday, February 3, 2011


I'm back at Providence Hall, teaching in my Foundations of the Faith class. After some prayer while I was away in the Philippines, I changed my lesson plans, and decided to spend the month of February studying the Book of Psalms with them.

This idea was prompted in part by a book I read on my flight home by Kathleen Norris entitled The Cloister Walk. It's a memoir of a year when she participated in the daily life and rhythms of a Benedictine monastery. I could go on and on about the book, but this is the quote that triggered my reconsideration of my lesson plan:

“You come to the Bible’s ‘great book of praises’ through all the moods and conditions of life, and while you may feel poorly, you sing anyway. To your surprise, you find that the psalms do not deny your true feelings, but allow you to reflect on them, right in front of God and everyone.”

After my great week with the students at Faith Academy, I was reminded that we can never talk enough about how to cultivate a devoted, earnest life of prayer. This quote confirmed that hunch.

In preparation for this series, I went to a trusted resource. My friend Tremper Longman, in his book How to Read the Psalms, say that there are roughly seven different types of psalms. I thought it would be great to walk my students through these different types in order to learn more about "God's prayer book." Ultimately, I also want us to experience the prayers together as well.

So on Tuesday we started off with the type most people probably think of when they think about the Book of Psalms ~ Tremper calls this type the "hymn." As he describes them,
Hymns are easily recognized by their exuberant praise of the Lord. The psalmist pulls out all the stops in his rejoicing in God's goodness. His praise is exuberant because the psalmist is very conscious of God's presence.

I then shared with them the 3 structural pieces that scholars detect in the psalmic hymns:
  1. They begin with a call to worship.
  2. They continue by expanding on the reasons why God should be praised.
  3. Hymns often include, and sometimes conclude with, further words of praise.
Then we looked at Psalm 113, and used the psalm as a guide to prayer:

Psalm 113

1 Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD.

There is almost nothing more enjoyable to this old youth pastor's ears than hearing the hum of many students in prayer. I encouraged them to be as honest with God as they are with their friends, and walked them through a couple of examples.

I think at least a few of them got that. Well, one of them sure did... I overheard him thank God for "ice cream, and baseball." Smile.

During lunch, one of the junior girls called out to me from her circle of friends, "Kelly, how cool is it that a few of us have been praying that we could learn how to pray more at Providence Hall, and then you bust out with that lesson today?"

Indeed. How cool is that?


  1. I wish I could hear you speak this to us. =D

  2. That is SO sweet. Thank you Hajong!

  3. Norris tells a story (in this book, I think) about a monk who had been wrongly accused of something. Rather than try to correct the story and clear his name, he waited for the truth to come out on its own. It took ten years, but, as Norris writes, "What's ten years to a monk?" If you come across the story, could you let me know what page it's on?

  4. yes... I"m about halfway through and don't recall reading it. Stay tuned.