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The Psalms: A model of dialogue

The book of Psalms tells us who God is from the experience of men and women who open their hearts and establish dialogue with our Creator.

When we look at the Psalms as a whole, we cannot help but admit that we are in the presence of a majestic work of literature, poetic and full of wisdom -- a masterpiece that takes aim at healing the soul and understanding God through the alchemy of artful dialogue .

This collection of songs, prayers, supplications, and praises reveal that the Psalmists have a firsthand knowledge of God. Their hearts are conquered by the strong conviction that their lives have meaning only through faith. So strong is this experience that it overtakes their intellect, emotions, dreams, and expectations – where their entire inner life gets restructured by way of innate dependence on God. Even their sins, fears and anger are humbly and transparently offered to the Lord.

The psalmists’s dialogue with God is saturated with the hope of victory over suffering, guilt, shame, and disappointment. Despite the title, “Praises”, the Psalms depict the entire range of human depths of joy, sadness, anger, fretfulness, helplessness, and hope. The magnitude and diversity of prayers, petitions and praise give voice to someone who is in dire need, who expresses joy, who laments from feelings of being lost, abandoned and forgotten; and experiences jubilation from “finding God” or being “found by God”.

Appended below are a collection of Psalms that speak to a range of situations and emotions we face in our current generation where we have enough technology in the palm of our hands to dehumanise the human condition:

  • Anxiety & insomnia: Psalm 3 & 4

  • Disease: Psalm 6

  • Injustice: Psalm 7

  • Fear: Psalm 34

  • Panic attacks: Psalm 55

  • Ageing: Psalm 71, 73 & 90

  • Corruption of justice: Psalm 82

  • Loneliness: Psalm 88

  • Exercising authority: Psalm 101

  • Impending death: Psalm 102

  • Ecology: Psalm 104

  • Unruly lifestyle: Psalm 107

  • Helping the Poor: Psalm 113

  • Fear of rejection: Psalm 119: 20-43

  • Life as a foreigner: Psalm 61 & 121

  • Social exploitation and labour rights: Psalm 123

  • Bullying: Psalm 129

  • Tragedies: Psalm 127

  • Violence: Psalm 140

  • Despair: Psalm 143

  • Mourning: Psalm 146

The convergence of the polarised characteristics of God, as all powerful and equally merciful are recognised and exalted in the personal prayer of the Psalmist and the community of believers coming together to give honour and glory to God. The French translator and commentator Andre Chouraqui notes that as a kind of “Revelation” of the Old Testament, the Psalter as a whole portrays conflict between the two existing ways of life: the “righteous” and the “wicked”, which could also be translated as the “innocent” and the “rebellious”.

On the part of the rebellious is the attempt to deny the eternity of God and the cause of the innocent is driven by the truth that God exists; and is just and good. And while the wicked are committed to sustaining their stance to be “God of our own lives”, the righteous look to God as their only hope in the midst of many afflictions -- where they will be saved and justified; both in part on earth and with complete fulfilment in the future.

Siga Shagran

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