A BOOK OF PRAYER
“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.”
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1945, suggested in a seminal work called Psalms: The Prayer book of the Bible that the way to read the Psalter is by understanding that these Psalms are not, in the first place, our Psalms. They are first and foremost the Psalms of David, and then the Psalms of Jesus. While Bonhoeffer’s exegetical ( and theological) work in his tiny volume is minimal, his suggestion offers a fruitful biblical-theological way of resolving this most basic problem of how to read the Psalms, which has dogged the study of the Psalms for at least two hundred years. It is obvious that whatever the nature of the connection between David and the Psalms, King David casts a long shadow over the collection. The fact that thirty-seven out of the first forty –one Psalms are marked ‘Of David’ makes that clear.” (Gary Miller, Calling On the Name of the Lord (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
With a focus upon the nature of the Book of Psalms as a book of prayer for God’s people, centred upon David as the type of the Messiah Bonhoeffer draws us into a reflection on the promise of God to redeem us Himself through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. Such a central point must be approached with true Biblical humility. As I approach it in this way I find myself becoming open to learning some exceedingly precious truths. These are truths about God’s purposes in this world, about the advent of His Son, about my exceeding sinfulness, about God’s great love for us, and about the tremendous promises He has made to us.
In the discovery of these tremendous facts we are brought to see clearly the real nature of prayer. Prayer is not just the bringing of my wish list to God for Him to take care of for me. It is calling on God to meet the need which is at the heart of real life. Jesus says, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these needs will be taken care of as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
The question is, have I truly understood and committed myself to the purposes of God in this world? Am I only paying lip service to these things? This is absolutely crucial for me. These questions are at the heart of what it means to be a person who really prays.
I believe that this is something which the whole Bible and the Book of Psalms in particular, are meaning to teach me. This is the crucial study which we are called to engage in. Psalm 57:1 speaks about taking refuge in the Lord until the disaster is past. Living in this world with its violent history will cause us to focus upon our current disaster. How are we to respond?
The Psalmist cries out in just such a time as this that we are to take refuge in the Lord and in Him alone. Submission to Him and to His covenant purpose is at the heart of all true praying. We must come to Him in the way He has provided. This is through the cross of Christ. This is the place where we find all of God’s promises to us fulfilled. The place of atonement is the only ground on which prayer is heard and answered.