Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saving Everyone

I could've entitled this post "Universal Salvation" or something like that, but it sounds too grand. Just call it what it is, so "saving everyone" is the name of the game. And a game it is, indeed.

My previous post, a quotation of Abba Barsanuphios, was about free will and the message of salvation. In this post, I will be stealing from, and introducing my readers to, a dude by the name of Fr Neo, who is an Episcopal priest who preempts our questions with, "Yes, I am orthodox." His recent blog post "Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?" drew some comments from me and a couple of others that I'd like to share on my blog. Since Fr Neo's post is short enough, I'm quoting it entirely, and then adding the comments somewhat edited for relevance. To read the whole thing, click the link above.

Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?
by Fr Neo

So asks the Orthodox bishop, Kallistos Ware. In his work The Inner Kingdom, he dares to ask the question. Ware is not a squishy theologian. He is thoroughly traditional and Orthodox in all points. But he is expressing a true and, I think, orthodox hope.

He mentions that St. Gregory of Nyssa also had such hopes. Ware says,
“Gregory [writes], ‘the wickedness which is now mingled and consolidated with our nature has been finally expelled from it, and when all those things that are now sunk down in evil are restored to their original state, there will ascend from the entire creation a united hymn of thanksgiving…All this is contained in the great mystery of the Divine Incarnation.’ This final restoration, Gregory clearly states, will embrace even the devil.”

Ware does not deny the existence of hell, he only questions the purpose for it. Is it a place of condemnation and judgment, or does it have a restorative or healing element to it? Is the fire of God wrathful or is it remedial? Ware is not trying to presume that God’s purpose will eventually win out to save everyone, he is only expressing a hope and a sincere prayer.

Now, for the comments…

Human speculations and “sincere prayers” aside, even bishop Kallistos cannot gloss over the plain meaning of scripture regarding salvation and damnation. The bible, using baby talk as it were to communicate to us the truths of “how it all works” is not to be underestimated. Rather than the opposite, I think the little that is said in the scriptures about eternal separation from God (hell, damnation, lake of fire, etc.) is a merciful shielding of our eyes from the real horror inherent in the wrong use of our free will. Rather than “God doesn’t speak much or clearly about damnation, and we know He’s so good, well, maybe these are just little incentives for us to try to be nice,” perhaps something like this may be true, “God doesn’t tell us too much about the nature of damnation, because He doesn’t want us to be terrorized into accepting Him.” [Romanós]

Dare we hope for the salvation of all?
To do otherwise is nothing short of a sin.

Indeed, it would be a sin not to hope for the salvation of all. To assume the salvation of all would also be a sin, to place ourselves in the place where only Christ belongs.
[John H]

Forgive me, brother, but can we really hope for something that the scriptures reveal as impossible? Pretty strong wording to say that hoping for anything other than the salvation of all is a “sin”. In a perfect world, that is, in a world where everyone (eventually) did what was right, humans and hypersomatic beings included, we could hope that all of them, even the sometimes naughty ones, would repent and turn back to God. That would be a legitimate hope, even in the face of temporal, and temporary, wickedness. But, brother, it’s not a perfect world, at least, not yet. Sometime soon, the Alpha and the Omega, the Pantokrator, will come to separate the sheep from the goats. It is not in vain that He spoke those words, nor was He fantasizing when He revealed to John the Revelator what was, what is, and what is to come. Scripture doesn’t speak to us in vain, nor is it for our entertainment, but for our investiture.

Stick close to the revealed Word, since you claim Him as your Lord, and let Him be a “curb for the wild horses” of your mind, as Clement of Alexandria so aptly wrote. Submit your thoughts to that Word.
If you can be safe, don’t put yourself in danger.

I could wish that everyone would be saved, but not one wish of mine will I work against the will of Him who has created all things, nor against His plan of “as it must be.” [Romanós]

John H,
As to your comment regarding the sovereignty of God, I suspect you are right. SDG as the Reformers cried out, no? I’m just counting on (trusting?) the same Christ to win the day, if you will–what He has begun, He will complete. I truly don’t say this in a snide or supercilious manner. I really believe Christ will make all well in His own way and time. I equally suspect it may be a painful process. But can anything, included the “free will” of man, thwart God’s ultimate eschatological purpose and intent for His creation? And what is that? Restoration! Wholeness! A union of love triumphant!

Have you read the late eminent theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar on said subject? I would contend that Holy Writ is not as clear and cut and dry as you propose (in spite of what the magisterial Reformer Luther would have us believe). When you say, “as it must be,” I wonder if we are not of the same hermeneutical mind, but just drawing different conclusions. The hyper-Calvinist insists in such a manner as well. I find it almost humorous that so many think and believe that all is determined categorically this side of the grave.
May I also ask of you: What is Hell–God’s absence or presence?

You’ve lost me on most of what you said in your last comment. Holy scripture IS clear on everything that really matters. I wouldn’t use the term ‘cut and dry’ when referring to biblical truth, though, because ‘whatever you think it’s more than that, more than that’.

I don’t know what hell is, except what the bible says it is, acknowledging at the same time that God has given us very little detail about it, except that it is.

Your question, what is hell, God’s absence or presence, cannot be asked without begging the question. It’s an ontological issue. God is present always and everywhere, even in hell. The scriptures declare it, the fathers teach it, the Orthodox believe it, human conscience senses it. Whether you are in heaven or hell now or in some future state, depends solely on whether you really love God or really hate Him. Now and always it boils down to accepting God’s ‘as it must be.’ We are derivative beings. Our whole nature, when it’s in order, wants to submit to the Father’s will, because He is our Source. Even the Son and the Holy Spirit want to submit to the Father’s will because He is their Source, and this, being of one will, is the foundation and nature of the Holy Triad, and for us, of the ‘three-personal life’ as C.S. Lewis calls it in Mere Christianity. Any and all beings that possess free will receive their freedom by laying it down before the Throne, or be imprisoned by withholding it, while crying “MINE!”

It seems that we’ve actually said everything that can be reasonably said on this subject, at least for me. Time to get back to the Word of God, and let Him form us His servants and sons, renew our minds and, in Christ, restore His divine image broken in us. Go with God, Constantine, my brother. Thanks for your comments. [Romanós]

I don't want this post to end with something I've written, so let me close with a quote from C.S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce. This is put in the mouth of George MacDonald, who is correcting a mistaken sentiment that Lewis expresses to him. Read on…

'Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it; or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye'll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye'll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.' [C.S. Lewis]

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sow in Hope

Do not force people's free will, but sow in hope; for our Lord did not compel anyone, but He preached the good news, and those who wished hearkened to Him.

—Abba Barsanuphios of Gaza
pictured with Abba John

Thursday, November 22, 2007

He Makes Us Look

Holy Apostle Paul was very right when he compared the marriage relationship between a man and woman to the relationship of Christ and the Church, yet in these last days both these relationships are ravaged with bold-faced affrontery and unashamed hypocrisy. It all begins with the manhandling of the Word of God, ruling over the Word insteading of letting it rule over you. This misbehavior shares at least one important characteristic with lying—once you start lying, you can never stop, because you have to bury each lie with another. The same is true with manhandling the Word, which in a sense is also a form of lying—once you start twisting the Word, well, you see where this is leading? "What is twisted cannot be straightened, what is not there cannot be counted." (Ecclesiastes 1:15 Jerusalem Bible)

The man is, as the scriptures teach, the head of the woman, and Christ is the Head of the Church. When this order is not respected, true community breaks down rapidly, and tyranny replaces it. Worse yet, prayer is corrupted, because it cannot be honest. It becomes a formality, even if it is not a written prayer. If people can lie to one another without reading the lies out of a book, so also can people "pray" dishonestly without reading prayers out of a book. It's not whether a truth or a prayer is read from something written down. Everything hangs on the disposition of man's heart.

Why am I thinking about this? Because I have witnessed blasphemous prayers today being offered in rebellion against the Truth, futile prayers spoken for show, for the sake of keeping up appearances. And I ask the Lord, "Why do You let this continue? When will you show everyone up for what we are? How long, Lord, how long?"

Perhaps I've shared this already, but Sergei Fudel writes in his little book Light in the Darkness,

Prayer is born of love. Is it not the same as to say, "Prayer is born of tears?" I realized this quite recently when I heard a young girl answer a question addressed to her. "How can I learn to pray?" The question did not puzzle her and she said unhesitatingly, "Go and learn to weep and you'll learn to pray." She completed the words of the Fathers.

This is me again. The psalms for the 22nd day were Psalms 107~109. I didn't offer them in prayer today, but I have prayed a verse here, a verse there. These are the psalms of my wife's birthday, so I know them quite well. Psalm 107 is all about how we go and do foolish things, following our vain desires, and then get into trouble or danger, and… God to the rescue! And then we thank Him, profusely and, we hope, honestly. Here's a sample that speaks to me…

Some were living in gloom and darkness,
fettered in misery and irons
for defying the orders of God,
for scorning the advice of the Most High;
who bent them double with hardship,
to breaking point, with no one to help them.

Then they called to Yahweh in their trouble
and He rescued them from their sufferings;
releasing them from gloom and darkness,
shattering their chains.

Let these thank Yahweh for His love,
for His marvels on behalf of men;
breaking bronze gates open,
He smashes iron bars.
Psalm 107:10-16 JB

A verse in Psalm 108 expresses something I've been asking the Lord many a day "God, can You really have rejected us? …Help us in this hour of crisis!" (Psalm 108:11-12 JB) It isn't as though I think that He has rejected us, no, but that our free wills prevent Him from acting, and so I just keep pleading, "Help!"

The third psalm for this day, Psalm 109, is King David's plea for help against his enemies. Aside from everything else he prays, my spirit trembles when I pray these words "In return for my friendship, they denounce me, though all I had done was pray for them." (Psalm 109:4 JB) Things like this have happened to me and are happening still. We'd like to just turn a deaf ear to them, turn our backs on them, the people who trouble us. We might be able to do this, if we stayed away from God's Word. But if we turn to the Word of God, whether to the Psalms, or to any other part of it, He makes us look, makes us face the enemy in ourselves and in others. Maybe that's why we'd rather read anything else. We can read what people say about Him, and not listen to what He says about us.

God save us, and help us to be thankful for Your friendship, Your willingness to receive us.

Help me, Yahweh my God,
save me since You love me!
And let them know that You have done it,
that it was You, Yahweh, who did it!
Psalm 109:26-27 JB

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Seeking Just Our Own

Presbytera Candace Schefe sent me this quote from John Chrysostom:

We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation; we need to look first to the good of others. In warfare, the soldier who takes to flight to save his own skin brings disaster on himself as well as on the others, whereas the good soldier who takes up arms on behalf of his comrades saves his own life along with theirs. Many of our brothers and sisters have fallen in this battle, wounded and covered with blood, with no one to care for them. There is no one to look after them, no layman, no priest, no comrade, no friend, no brother, because we are all of us seeking our own individual salvation, and thereby spoiling our chance of attaining it.
Psalms for the 17th Day: Psalms 86~89This morning, the psalms appointed for the seventeenth day really spoke my prayer. Here is one of them…

Listen to me, Yahweh, and answer me,
poor and needy as I am;
keep my soul: I am Your devoted one,
save Your servant who relies on You.

You are my God, take pity on me, Lord,
I invoke you all day long;
give your servant reason to rejoice,
for to You, Lord, I left my soul.

Lord, You are good and forgiving,
most loving to all who invoke You;
Yahweh, hear my prayer,
listen to me as I plead.

Lord, in trouble I invoke You,
and You answer my prayer;
there is no god to compare with You,
no achievement to compare with Yours.

All the pagans will come and adore You, Lord,
all will glorify Your name,
since You alone are great, You perform marvels,
You God, You alone.

Yahweh, teach me Your way,
how to walk beside You faithfully,
make me single-hearted in fearing Your name.
Psalm 86:1-11 Jerusalem Bible

Later, this evening, we went to vespers at Saint Nicholas of Myra church. Today, as it turns out, was the commemoration of holy Prophet Obadiah, and his entire prophecy was sung by the cantor, followed by a lengthy, utterly quiet pause. It made us feel we were in a Quaker meeting house. Brock noticed, and remembering it with me afterwards cited the verse, "… there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8:1). Somehow the quality of the silence after the singing of Obadiah's prophecy had this effect on us both. How could there not be silence after hearing these momentous words?

Yes, as you have drunk on My holy mountain,
so will all the nations drink unsparingly;
they will drink, and drink deep,
and will be as if they had never been.

But on Mount Zion there will be some who have escaped
—it shall become a holy place—
and the House of Jacob will despoil
its own despoilers.

The House of Jacob shall be a fire,
the House of Joseph a flame,
the House of Esau stubble.
They will set it alight and burn it up,
and no member of the House of Esau shall survive.
Yahweh has spoken.

Men from the Negebwill occupy the Mount of Esau,
men from the lowlands
the country of the Philistines;

they will occupy the land of Ephraim
and the land of Samaria,

and Benjamin
will occupy Gilead.

The exiles from this army, the sons of Israel,
will occupy Canaan as far as Zarephath;
and the exiles from Jerusalem now in Sepharad
will occupy the towns of the Negeb.

Victorious, they will climb Mount Zion
to judge the Mount of Esau,
and the sovereignty shall belong to Yahweh.
Obadiah 16~21 Jerusalem Bible
This prophecy made me think of the current restoration of Israel in the land which is not, as many churchables think, an accident of history, but the fulfillment of prophecy, specifically of prophecies like that of holy Prophet Obadiah.

This was a very good day.
Thank you, Lord.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Michael Beautiful

Andrew performing his composition, Michael Beautiful.

I recently discovered that my son Andrew has upgraded his musical presence on the internet. In addition to his regular MySpace site, he also has a YouTube presence, jazzpsalti. Though the stated aim of my blog is to communicate, not to entertain, to advertise Andrew's music and give you a sample here is not, I hope, going back on my word. Music can be merely entertainment, but it can also be a testimony of one's life in Christ, and it can also minister to others. Andrew's music ministers to me, and I think it does the same for others as well. Sometimes I have his music in a loop on this blog. For now, there's no loop running, so you can view and hear this sample.

If you like this music, you can link to it anytime from my blog side panel, or open it and save it in your favorites. You will also see in Andrew's MySpace, a calendar of where and when you can see and hear him "live". He also lists the services at which he will be singing as a psalti (cantor) at Aghía Triás Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. I encourage you to check out his music and video sites and get in touch with him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Thirty-two years later

Psalms for the 6th day were Psalms 30 to 34.

After getting home from work,
I read them and meditated on the meaning they've had for me these many a year. And I spoke them in prayer, and received back, as the Lord never fails me, He's the faithful one.

Hear, Yahweh, take pity on me;
Yahweh, help me!
(Psalm 30:10)

Back in 1975, we were still on the trail of that elusive commodity, the "perfect" commune.

Chuck and Tish owned a half section of land on the western slope of a mountain outside of Harrisburg, Oregon, and another half section down in the valley. The upper section was organized as a commune called "Ahimsa" (Sanskrit for "non-violence"), and they had invited us to live there if we could make it work.
They were letting their friends build homes out in the wilds, and the commune was going to be very (as we say in Greek) idio-rhythmic. In other words, people did not share everything in common materially or spiritually. They only shared the land and each other's company. Everyone was expected to have their own income and build themselves a home at their own expense. The ethos of the commune was to be "spiritual", but in the New Age sense—all paths ultimately lead to God.

Before we moved down here, we visited Ahimsa in the spring of 1975. That's when I took the photos that illustrate this post. At that point, I was still a New Age spiritual seeker myself, though Anastasia was a "born again" Christian. We didn't go to church, though, because I had a problem with the hypocrisy I heard tell of. Our visit left us both with a positive impression of the commune, and so we packed up our transportable belongings in about 120 boxes and shipped them via Canadian Freightways to the Portland terminal. Our irreplaceables went into a car carrier that I built out of plywood and mounted to the top of my 1972 Pinto hatch-back. (In the end, we didn't join Ahimsa. Chuck and Tish ended up becoming Mormons. We became Christians. I don't know what became of the others at Ahimsa.)

We arrived in Corvallis the evening of Rosh Hashonah, September 5, 1975, and stayed with a young Jewish couple we had known in Edmonton, Debbie and Harold. (Next morning we drove to Salem with them for our first experience of synagogue worship.)

This is not going to be the story of how I smuggled my wife and child into the U.S., but rather how I found myself, on the Thursday morning of November 6, 1975, ready to meet the Lord.
(Let the reader understand: I'm not now talking about just any Lord.)
Let me cite a verse from the psalms for the 6th day…

Happy the man whose fault is forgiven,
whose sin is blotted out;
happy the man whom Yahweh
accuses of no guilt,
whose spirit is incapable of deceit!

All the time I kept silent, my bones were wasting away
with groans, day in, day out;
day and night Your hand
lay heavy on me;
my heart grew parched as stubble
in summer drought.

At last I admitted to You I had sinned;
no longer concealing my guilt,
I said, "I will go to Yahweh
and confess my fault."
And You, You have forgiven the wrong I did,
have pardoned my sin.
(Psalm 32:1-5)

That morning I was at work, a rough sawyer in an old furniture mill in Albany. It was cold outside. The wind was blowing through the cracks in the barn-like plank walls. My fingers were freezing, even though I had gloves on. Behind me, a large planer was roaring. My off-bearer was shivering as he slid the scrap off the saw with one hand into a waste bin, while with the other guiding the good rips onto a cart.
I heard a voice inside my head, "Why do you resist Me…?"

I will instruct you, and teach you the way to go;
I will watch over you and be your advisor.
Do not be like senseless horse or mule
that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit
to let you get near them.
(Psalm 32:8-9)

Quickly, I sensed this was not just my imagination. I waved my off-bearer a signal, "Go empty the wood box!" That would take him at least 15 minutes, maybe longer, because it meant dragging a heavy load of wood down to the boiler hut. "He's probably going to want to warm himself there," something in me quipped. As he hauled his heavy load away to be burned, another heavy load was going to be hauled away and burned, one only I and the Off-bearer could see.

You, who have seen my wretchedness,
and known the miseries of my soul,
have not handed me over to the enemy,
You have given my feet space and to spare.
(Psalm 30:7b-8)

The talk began, slowly at first, then more heatedly. I argued with the voice. Sometimes I seemed to switch sides. I wanted to surrender, but then, I had investments. How could I give these up? Would I get something to replace them? What? How can you bargain with Him? What are you expecting? He's already told you everything, and you know it's all true.

The Word of Yahweh is integrity itself,
all He does is done faithfully;
He loves virtue and justice,
Yahweh's love fills the earth.

By the Word of Yahweh the heavens were made,
their whole array by the breath of His mouth…
(Psalm 33:4-6)

My temperature was rising, in spite of the biting cold around me. With every last ounce of my will, my flesh resisted the voice, and I kept feeling hotter. "This can't be happening to me! You know I want to accept You, but I can't, I can't!" Finally, I asked Him to remove what was binding me.

Hear, Yahweh, take pity on me; Yahweh, help me! (Psalm 30:10)

That which I couldn't do of my own power, somehow He called forth from me. "All that I am, and all that I have, I surrender to You, Lord, to You, Jesus. I don't want anything now, nothing but what You want me to be and to have." This was the jist of what came tumbling out of my lips, along with sobs, because by now my face was a liquified mess. A coolness like a stream of icy water flowed over my head and then my body. I don't know what it was, but it pacified me. The planer with its attendee still roared behind me, none hearing or seeing what was happening to me, and me hearing and seeing nothing outside of me.

Every face turned to Him grows brighter
and is never ashamed.
A cry goes up from the poor man, and Yahweh hears,
and helps him in all his troubles.

The angel of Yahweh pitches camp
around those who fear Him; and He keeps them safe.
How good Yahweh is—only taste and see!
Happy the man who takes shelter in Him.
(Psalm 34:5-8)

Something that can't be put into words really, yet I've tried on this and other occasions. This time I'm only hinting at it. What is this thing that happens to us? A year ago I wrote a post, Born again? When? in which I tried to recount what happened to me that morning. That's my testimony, or at least part of it, because the new life in Christ, the birth from above, is really an event in kairós time—though you can sometimes pinpoint it on a calendar, it really encompasses more than a moment. You can't look at it, you can't even remember it, as it really is, was and is to come, because it's hidden with the One who will give it back to you on the last Day.

Our soul awaits Yahweh,
He is our help and shield;
our hearts rejoice in Him,
we trust in His holy Name.

Yahweh, let Your love rest on us
as our hope has rested in You.
(Psalm 33:20-22)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Praying the Psalms

Orthodox Christians have a lot of standard prayers that we can use when we pray, and many of us use them. If we're not careful, we can let addressing God this way become something like a personalized but still impersonal prayer wheel, spinning off words yet feeling justified because we've "said our prayers." Having a relationship with the living God can be bypassed this way, exchanged for something like a business agreement with a heavenly accounting firm.

If I make this sound like written prayers are to be avoided, that's not my intent. Formal prayers are there to launch us into the life of prayer. If we stop and linger with them, then we have no one but ourselves to blame. What I want to share with you today is some reflections on the Psalms, God's own "prayer book" which He has given us to teach us how to pray, what to pray for, when to pray, and by which He speaks back to us when we pray them faithfully.

The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England established a very easy and consistent way to pray the Psalms. They arranged them in a 30 day cycle, dividing them up into morning and evening portions for each day. (I know some months have 31 days. See the note at the end of this post.) Rather than making things complicated by following the Lectionary or grouping psalms by content, they just started with Psalm 1 and divided them up as they come, ending with Psalm 150. No flipping back and forth of pages, that would only be a distraction. Just simple, Psalm 1, 2 and 3, and so on.

The first day of the month has eight psalms, but depending on length, some days have more or fewer. When you get to the longest psalm (and longest chapter of the Bible), we find that it takes two and a half days to pray it! But the first day has eight. Not too many, not too few.

To pray the Psalms, just make a point of going aside to a quiet and secluded place, your "prayer closet" as the Lord says, and that can be anywhere. Just don't take anything with you into that place but your Bible. Open it reverently. Kiss the Book if you dare and then, open it to the first psalm of the day. Today is November 1st, so it's Psalm 1. Read this psalm, standing before the Father and in His presence. Though it may not seem like you're praying or asking the Lord for anything, in fact you are. Your very act of standing in His presence and reading His Word is the fact of prayer.
Go ahead, read it…

Happy the man
who never follows the advice of the wicked,
or loiters on the way that sinners take,
or sits about with scoffers,
but finds his pleasure in the Law of Yahweh,
and murmurs his law day and night!
He is like a tree that is planted
by water streams,
yielding its fruit in season,
its leaves never fading;
success attends all he does.
It is nothing like this with the wicked, nothing like this!
No, these are like chaff
blown away by the wind.
The wicked will not stand firm when Judgment comes,
nor sinners when the virtuous assemble.
For Yahweh takes care of the way the virtuous go,
but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Then, just say "Amen!" to seal the praying of this psalm with your will and testimony. And continue to the next one, Psalm 2. Read it the same way, clearly, and listening to the words with your heart as well as your inner ear. This too is a prayer. Do you sense His presence with you in the room? While you're reading, praying, don't pay attention to anything outside yourself or any mental distractions. Pause if you want to pause, reread a line if you want to reread it. Pray the psalm through more than once, if you need to, before going on to the next one. Most of all, don't rush, don't put a worry about finishing by a certain time on yourself. You're standing in His presence, you're in His kairós (acceptable time) and have, in act, left the world.
Go ahead, continue with Psalm 2…

Why this uproar among the nations?
Why this impotent muttering of pagans—
kings on earth rising in revolt,
princes plotting against Yahweh and his Anointed,
‘Now let us break their fetters!
Now let us throw off their yoke!’
The One whose throne is in heaven
sits laughing, Yahweh derides them.
Then angrily he addresses them,
in a rage he strikes them with panic,
‘This is my king, installed by me
on Zion, my holy mountain.’
Let me proclaim Yahweh’s decree;
he has told me, ‘You are my son,
today I have become your father.
Ask and I will give you the nations for your heritage,
the ends of the earth for your domain.
With iron sceptre you will break them,
shatter them like potter’s ware.’
So now, you kings, learn wisdom,
earthly rulers be warned:
serve Yahweh, fear him,
tremble and kiss his feet,
or he will be angry and you will perish,
for his anger is very quick to blaze.
Happy all who take shelter in him.

Again, say "Amen!" at the end of this psalm. You have only six more to go. By the time to get to Psalm 8, you'll not want to leave. Also, beginning with Psalm 3, you will find yourself standing in King David's place, sharing his prayer, noticing little by little how you can pray these words as coming from your very self! The first time this happens isn't the last. If you persevere in praying the Psalms, you will enter into the Biblical world, being taught how to address the living God, understanding more and more of His will for your life.

Soon enough, between reading each psalm, your personal prayers will begin lodging themselves, at first by words maybe, but then gradually by spiritual groanings (I can't find a better word, but I don't mean something negative by "groan"). It's impossible to explain, but as you faithfully pray the Psalms, not only does your personal prayer and dialog with the Lord become more real, more lasting, but soon, you will find that the Lord has been speaking to you more constantly and clearly than you had ever realized. This is what the Orthodox mean by "practicing theology" rather than studying it. This is where a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ becomes more than just an expression.

Anyway, back to the Psalms.
I could copy the rest of the Psalms into this post, but instead, I am just going to list the numbers, and let you go and pray them yourself. For those who want to try praying the Psalms, I will provide a list of the 30 day cycle. The Book of Common Prayer lists them as "morning" and "evening" psalms, but I have never divided them this way, and so my list excludes this. The Bible version I use is the original (not the New) Jerusalem Bible, but you should use any version that works for you. In my Bible I have added the day numerals using some rub-on numbers that I got at an art supply store. The image above is the Bible I use when praying (the sprig of laurel is a bookmark, picked up from last year's Descent into Hades service). This is just to give you an idea.

If God allows it, my intention is to continue this post on praying the psalms throughout the month, though I may not write something every day. I just wanted to share with you this ministry of God's Word to me, hoping that you too can be ministered to by the Word of God, for prayer, as I have been.

Praying the Psalms has been my main personal prayer life since I accepted the Lord at the age of 24. I have not been faithful or consistent with it, but it is the place I always return to whenever I notice I've been drifting. And why is this? Because the Lord is there, He's the faithful and the true, the only lover of mankind, the merciful Father, and I can always depend on Him to save me, and enfolded in His psalms I can come and stand before Him, with Jesus.

Day 1 — Psalms 1-8
Day 2 — Psalms 9-14
Day 3— Psalms 15-18
Day 4 — Psalms 19-23
Day 5 — Psalms 24-29
Day 6 — Psalms 30-34
Day 7 — Psalms 35-37
Day 8 — Psalms 38-43
Day 9 — Psalms 44-49
Day 10 — Psalms 50-55
Day 11 — Psalms 56-61
Day 12 — Psalms 62-67
Day 13 — Psalms 68-70
Day 14 — Psalms 71-74
Day 15 — Psalms 75-78
Day 16 — Psalms 79-85
Day 17 — Psalms 86-89
Day 18 — Psalms 90-94
Day 19 — Psalms 95-101
Day 20 — Psalms 102-104
Day 21 — Psalms 105-106
Day 22 — Psalms 107-109
Day 23 — Psalms 110-115
Day 24 — Psalms 116-119:32
Day 25 — Psalm 119:33-104
Day 26 — Psalm 119:105-176
Day 27 — Psalms 120-131
Day 28 — Psalms 132-138
Day 29 — Psalms 139-143
Day 30 — Psalms 144-150

*Day 31 — Pray the psalms for the day of the month on which you were born.