Learning to love the Psalter


(system) #1

by Johnny A. Ramírez

This post is the first of what may become a series of journals from divinity and seminary students. At the end of the post there is a note requesting feedback on how interesting readers find this concept.

Called by Luther the little bible, the Psalms have sustained Christian life since its inception even forming a rich part of Christs own reflection up to and including His dying words. Before Bibles were in broad circulation the Psalms would have been one of the best known segments of Scripture familiar to Christians as they formed a central part of early and medieval Christian liturgy.

By the time John Wesley came onto the scene this sort of ritualized recitation of the Psalms had become routine to the point where (although he never left Anglicanism) his offspring churches seem to share his lack of any sort of aesthetic sensitivity. The Puritans had outright contempt and scorn for 'high church' ritualized worship including the reading of the Psalms. These outlooks have affected many American churches including our own American-born denomination.

Bonhoeffer, who in the secret seminary of his Confessional church instituted a regular reading of the Psalms, said that after praying the Psalms you could never go back since any other prayer seems woefully inadequate. He also proposed that the Lords prayer is actually the summary of main themes of the Psalms.

Even if you read the Psalms regularly on your own you lose much as the Psalms were intended to form part of communal worship. Indeed monastic recitations of the Psalms incite physiological changes in the part of the participant as they move, and breathe, with fellow readers as they go through the text.

My report is that my experience of the past few weeks of attending morning prayer at Kings College chapel has positively impacted my daily outlook in relationship to Scripture. The service has two regular leaders, Brian Brock and John Webster faculty members in practical theology and systematic theology respectively, who alternate in leading the prayers. The leader reads one verse and we read together the following verse. Brock has an American evangelical background and Webster is a life long Anglican. This comes across as a marked difference as although Brock has been attending morning prayer for several years his readings lack the tempo, cadence and memorization of Webster who has, after years of this, obviously memorized quite a bit of these texts.

I can't help but feel that such familiarity with Scripture should be present within all of us especially those who would pretend to make Christian ministry our life's work. I've struggled to keep up with what feels to me to be a fast reading and also to pause at appropriate times and for the proper duration. I also had to be told how to find that mornings prayer in the book of common prayer (it's numbered by the day of the month).

My deepest impression has been the experience of immersing myself in the Psalms and beginning my day with regular readings from Scripture. This is something that I had not experienced in the same way with private extemporaneous prayers following devotional readings on my own. I'm not suggesting that we take up a prayer book or structure our worship like "high church" denominations. I do however think that a daily worship practice would be a positive addition to the life of any Christian.

This is a practice which with time will become habit and in turn contribute to forming a character rooted in Christ and reflection on the word. I have fast come to look forward to, and depend on, morning prayer to bring me closer to the word and the Word, Christ.

I hope that some readers can share how weekly morning worships look at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University, the seminaries at Southern and La Sierra and Adventist seminaries beyond North America.

I personally would love to read reports from Adventist seminary and divinity school students on the Spectrum blog. Any volunteers please email our Campus News editor alexander [at] spectrummagazine [dot] org. Thanks!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4068