This summer, at CU Church, during our worship times, we will preach from eleven of the one hundred and fifty Psalms. We will start where the Psalms start with Psalm 1. We will also preach from Psalm 3, 8, 19, 23, 46, 51, 107, 110, 139 and 150. For reasons that go beyond the scope of this devotional, I have always been drawn to athletic coaches. They served as surrogate fathers for me during my troubled teenage years. In my adult years, I found a spiritual coach that has not only helped me to navigate the Psalms and learn to pray, but has also guided me to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in my ongoing spiritual formation. His name is Ambrose (339-397 AD). He was bishop of Milan, Italy, a pastor, teacher-preacher and theologian, who on Easter Sunday, 387 AD, baptized Augustine. Ambrose was a Christ-follower who found in the Psalms a place to exercise his faith. For him, the Psalms were not a spa or a place to search for comfort, but the Psalms were a place to vigorously learn how to train to be a faithful apprentice of Jesus. Ambrose wrote: “In it (the Psalms) there is a complete gymnasium for the soul, a stadium for all the virtues, equipped for every kind of exercise…” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms, Psalm 1; 4:7-8).
I like the imagery of the Psalms as a work-out facility. In my younger years, I was a “gym rat.” Though an average athlete, I loved exercising my body. It was a priority for me. As I have aged, I still maintain a commitment to care for my body, but I have found the care of my soul to be a greater priority. I suppose it is why Paul’s wise words to Timothy mean so much to me these days, “…Bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul’s “training” counsel to Timothy draws on that same imagery of going to the gymnasium. So every morning I go to the spiritual gym. I encounter various exercises for my soul. I pray them. I sit, stand, bow and kneel according to what I find in these individual prayers. Some of them are hard to pray. Even after all these years, I still have so much to learn about praying and prayers.
I encourage you to look at these eleven Psalms in advance, ponder them and pray them as we spend the summer in the Psalms. Tim Keller’s helpful methodology might serve you well. He offers three suggestions:
- Pray the Psalms as they are. Allow them to be your prayers.
- Paraphrase and personalize the Psalms into your own prayers.
- Pick themes and sentences from the Psalms and allow them to prompt adoration, confession and petition (Prayer. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2014, pg. 256).
Together, as a CU family, let’s spend the summer in the Psalms.
Introduction: Summer in the Psalms at CU Church
Dr. J.K. Jones Jr.