GILH 105-106: Variety of Perspective and Emotions

In spite of the oft-heard criticism of the “Voice of God,” it is one of many perspectives used in the Psalter:

105. Often the words of a psalm help us to pray with greater ease and fervor, whether in thanksgiving and joyful praise of God or in prayer for help in the throes of suffering. But difficulties may arise, especially when the psalm is not addressed directly to God. The psalmist is a poet and often addresses the people as he recalls Israel‘s history; sometimes he addresses others, including subrational creatures. He even represents the words as being spoken by God himself and individual people, including, as in Ps 2, God’s enemies. This shows that a psalm is a different kind of prayer from a prayer or collect composed by the Church. Moreover, it is in keeping with the poetic and musical character of the psalms that they do not necessarily address God but are sung in God’s presence. Thus St. Benedict’s instruction: “Let us reflect on what it means to be in the sight of God and his angels, and let us so stand in his presence that our minds are in harmony with our voices.” [Rule of St. Benedict ch. 19.]

Saint Benedict grasped the truth of being in God’s presence: it’s not something the believer determines by intent or location or even how one speaks.

106. In praying the psalms we should open our hearts to the different attitudes they express, varying with the literary genre to which each belongs (psalms of grief, trust, gratitude, etc.) and to which biblical scholars rightly attach great importance.

These aspects should inform our prayer, not dominate it or be the starting point. This kind of analysis is better done after prayer, to test and see if the insights and experiences of prayer under the Holy Spirit’s guidance match well to what others have found.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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