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Reading and Praying

Birgit Hallmann

by Wye Huxford

Many, many years ago, as a senior in college I took a class that was being taught by Professor Eddie Groover, who would eventually become president of Atlanta Christian College for many years and a valued colleague of mine.  It was in that class that Eddie introduced us to Jim Dyer, who served for decades as minister of Southwest Christian Church in Atlanta.  

In that class, Jim Dyer introduced us to a plan for reading Psalms and Proverbs together in 31 days.  He didn't say he came up with the idea, just encouraged us to adopt the idea and start reading Psalms and Proverbs on a regular basis.  I don't know how many times I've used this plan at this point in my life, but every time I do I think about how grateful I am that Eddie Groover invited Jim Dyer to class that day!

The plan is pretty simple — read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs every day.  In 31 days, you will have completed both.  Of course many of you will know that Proverbs has 31 chapters and Psalms has only 150 individual Psalms — so the math isn't working.  But do not be afraid.  When you get to the day you should read Psalms 116-120 and Proverbs 24, skip Psalm 119 — the long, twenty-two stanza masterpiece.  On the next day, read Psalm 119 along with Proverbs 25 — and the math comes out perfectly!

N.T. Wright recently published a small book titled The Case for Psalms:  Why They are Essential.  It is well worth ordering and reading!  In the introduction, he says, "The regular praying and singing of the Psalms is transformative.  It changes the way we understand some of the deepest elements of who we are, or rather, who, where, when, and what we are:  we are creatures of space, time, and matter, and though we take our normal understanding of these for granted, it is my suggestion that the Psalms will gently but firmly transform our understandings of all of them" (page 7).  

If that's not convincing about the value of the Psalms, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who calls the Psalms "the prayer book of Jesus," says, "Who prays the Psalms?  David (Solomon, Asaph, etc.) prays, Christ prays, we pray. We — that is, first of all the entire community in which alone the vast richness of the Psalter can be prayed, but also finally every individual insofar as he participates in Christ and his community and prays their prayer. David, Christ, the church, I myself, and wherever we consider all of this together we recognize the wonderful way in which God teaches us to pray"  (page 21, Psalms:  The Prayer Book of the Bible).  

Last summer, while teaching an online class on how to use the Bible, one of the assignments was to interview five "seasoned believers" about how the Book of Psalms had been helpful to them in their Christian journeys. One of the students interviewed a very elderly gentleman whom she described as a "spiritual father" to her.

She asked him this basic question:  "What do the Psalms mean to you?"  He answered by telling her that he never learned to read until he was 49 years old, and that among the first words he ever read were the words of Psalm 23.  Then he said, "Those words leapt off the page as true as they had been all my life."

Most studies indicate that we Christians — even we who seriously take the Bible to be the "inspired Word of God" — don't read the Bible as we ought to.

If that's you, here's a plan.  Thirty-one days.  Five Psalms.  One chapter of Proverbs (with the 119 adjustment!).  Give it a try — you might find yourself in the habit of being blessed by the reading of Scripture.