Day 5 Reading with the Pastor
. Matthew 5 and Psalm 8
Day 6 Matthew 6 and Psalm 9
The sermon on the mount stretches from chapter 5:1 to 7:29. It is the greatest sermon ever preached from the greatest preacher who ever lived. It is a masterpiece of teaching that continues to reveal riches the longer it is read and the deeper it is understood.
Here’s another link [ Psalm 8–“Less Than Even My Enemies Thought I Was” ] to a poem from the “poetry project” (Part of an ongoing plan to write a poetic reflection on each of the psalms in the psalter.)
Yesterday and today have been busy “unpacking days” at the Schoenleber household in Rock Hill. But both of us are making time to read along with the whole congregation in this singular journey to grow deeper in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Yesterday was also a day to do a little reading in one of my favorite books, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. The edition I am reading from right now also includes Bonhoeffer’s The Prayer Book of the Bible. On pages one 108-9 you find this insightful quote:
The child learns to speak because the parent speaks to the child. The child learns the language of the parent. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken and speaks to us. In the language of the Father in heaven God’s children learn to speak with God. Repeating God’s own words, we begin to pray to God. We ought to speak to God, and God wishes to hear us, not in the false and confused language of our heart but in the clear and pure language that God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ.
God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we want to pray with assurance and joy, then the word of Holy Scripture must be the firm foundation of our prayer. . . . The words that come from God will be the steps on which we find our way to God.
Oh how our hearts rebel at Bonhoeffer’s phrase, “the false and confused language of our heart”. The modern spirit is that the heart of most people is good and inclined toward good, truth, and justice. More realistic experience and the Scripture teach us otherwise.
Here’s what Bonhoeffer is aiming at, the same thing the Spirit of God is aiming to teach us in a very familiar passage of the New Testament that often is not understood. He wants us to frame our prayers in the language of the psalms. Acts 2:42 tells us the practice and the secret of the early Church’s powerful prayer. The end of the verses closes with these words, “And they were continually devoting themselves . . . to the prayers.”
Not, “prayer” singular but “to the prayers” plural.
What does it mean?
Alt least two things. First, The early church, especially the apostles, but perhaps all of the Jewish converts, and maybe early gentile converts, continued the Jewish practice of praying three times a day, (morning, afternoon, and evening). Compare for an example, Acts 3:1 that describes Peter and John going up to the Temple at the ninth hour (3 PM) to pray. Second, with close to 99% certainty, they were going to recite and frame their prayers with the words of the psalter, the Jewish prayer book of the Old Testament.
I will teach on this some other time but for now, let us try this ourselves. How?
First, begin your day using some portion of the psalm(s) you read to frame the prayers you pray for your spouse. For example,
“O Lord our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vs. 1a) . Today, as my bride goes throughout her day, remind her of the greatness of Your name. Let everything she sees today point her back to Your majesty. Let her see how “You have set your glory above the heavens.” (vs. 1b). Encourage her heart this day with the reality of Your greatness. In the name of Christ, Amen.”
Second, continue that type of pattern throughout the day and into the evening. Use the word of God to frame the words you pray back to God. Pray the Scriptures and ask God to show you how His word applies to Your situation.
And finally, here are two more links for today to the Poetry Project. Both are for Psalm 9.