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The Prayer of the People of God

psalms the prayer of the people of God

Read the Psalms. They are pure poetry, but easier to understand than William Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or E.E. Cummings! The Psalms have been called a school of prayer, providing readers with historical information, plus the human connection of people’s emotional and spiritual responses to themselves, their world, and their Lord, making the words timeless and touching.

The Hebrew name for the collection is Praises and the Greek translation of that word is psalmos, referring to the twang of a stringed instrument. These verses were meant to be sung by God’s children, together raising their voices in praise, sorrow, wonder, weeping, repentance, and love. The ancient Israelites prayed and sang the Psalms; the earliest Christians prayed and sang the Psalms; and Catholics today still pray and sing the Psalms at every single Mass, every single day, all over the world. Not only is a responsorial song or chant of a Psalm part of the liturgical order, many hymns and choruses are penned directly from a Psalm.

psalmsAccording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the people of God . . . their prayer is inseparably personal and communal; it concerns both those who are praying and all men (#2586).”

“The Psalter is the book in which the word of God becomes man’s prayer. The same Spirit inspires both God’s work and man’s response. Christ will unite the two. In him, the Psalms continue to teach us how to pray (#2587).”

“Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time (#2597).”

I am an Irish girl who grew up in Southeastern New England, so poets dear to me include Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, William Wordsworth, and Katharine Tynan. Their words about our earth, our families, humanity’s beauty and trouble, and the yearnings of the heart calm and inspire me. But the Psalms do that, too, along with the knowledge that the words passed down are definitely from God.

How many times is Psalm 23 murmured as a prayer for peace? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me rest; to safe waters you lead me . . . I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage . . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

How many times have I recited for strength my favorite Psalm 27? “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid? One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to visit his temple . . . wait for the Lord, take courage, be stouthearted and wait for the Lord!”

We have yelled with King David. “Answer when I call, my saving God. In my troubles, clear a way. Show me favor; hear my prayer.” (4:2) And, “Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me Lord for my bones are trembling.” (6:3)

We have shouted with joy. “O Lord our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens!” (8:1) And, “All you people clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries!” (47:1)

We have wept. “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul?” (13:1-3) And, “Listen to my cry for help for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers for they are too strong for me.” (142:7)

We have taken a deep breath. “I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help so that I may sing of the Lord; how good our God has been to me!” (13:6) And, “I wait for you, O Lord. I lift up my soul to my God. In you I trust; do not let me be disgraced.” (25:1-2)

We have repented. “I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done evil in your sight that you are just when you condemn. Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure; wash me that I may be whiter than snow.” (52:5; 6,9)

We have exulted in the earth- “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes to govern the earth.” (96:11-13)

And we have sung praises. “How good to celebrate our God in song; how sweet to sing fitting praise. We sing to the Lord with thanksgiving and celebrate our God with the lyre!” (147:1,7)

May we read the Psalms again and be closer to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, those here and those in heaven. May we read the Psalms again and be closer to God, our loving creator.

Advent Allison Anima Christi Bible

Line by Line Prayer Reflection, Anima Christi Part XI

This is the eleventh and final of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.

anima christi XI

That with Your saints I may praise You forever and ever. Amen

This is the culmination of the entire prayer, its raison d’etre: to praise Jesus with the saints forever.

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the the throne and from the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshipped God and exclaimed, ‘Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 7:9-12)’.”

Well halleluia! That is from the apostle John’s visions of heaven, of course, and it is ours. But not only when we physically pass on from this world to the next. Eternity doesn’t begin when we die and are with Jesus. We’re in it now in this life on earth; eternity is not bound by time. We can, and indeed are directed to, praise God with all the saints (as well as the angels and the earth) throughout our lives.

From Psalms 148 and 150:

“Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him all you angels;
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Give praise, all shining stars;
Praise the Lord you sea monsters, you animals wild and tame;
You mountains, hills, fruit trees, and cedars;
You kings of the earth, young men and women, too;
Let them all praise the Lord’s name, for His name alone is exalted majestic above earth and heaven.
Praise with blasts upon the horn, the harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance;
Praise Him with flutes and strings and crashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

When Jesus’ followers were praising Him during the procession into Jerusalem, some of the Pharisees told Him to rebuke them and Jesus said, “I tell you, if they keep silent, then the stones will cry out!” Let’s not keep silent, shall we? Let’s have the stones join us, not do it for us! Praise is verbal affirmation of admiration. It should be heard (and apparently, loudly). It is not always easy, even though we know of the greatness of God, His salvation won at such a cost, His beauty and holiness. The final chapter of Hebrews reminds Christians that we seek the city which is to come and encourages us to “offer God a sacrifice of praise (13:15).” Sometimes, praising God is like dragging a sacrificial animal, kicking and bawling, to the altar. Our Lord accepts that kind of sacrifice, too.

All of the precious lines of this prayer of entreaty for Jesus’ sanctification, saving, washing, strengthening, hearing, etc., lead to this. “At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come unto You that with Your saints I may praise You forever and ever.” May we move through life and death praising God eternally. We are the people He has formed for Himself and we will announce His praise (Isaiah 43:21). This Advent, let us make praise a part of our devotion (maybe even with dancing and cymbals!). Let all the earth praise His Name!