Praying the Psalms with Christ: Learning to Pray

November 8, 2007 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Note: Much of this post is based upon a discussion in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible.

The title of this post might be confusing.  “Learning to pray?”  Many people think that prayer is not something we learn how to do.  It comes from inside or from the heart, or it’s not prayer. 

But let’s think a little bit about this.  If prayer is a language, language for speaking to God, then it is learned, because all language is learned.  The reason why my children speak English is because their parents and all the people around them spoke English.  They were immersed in the language from the day they were born.

Children listen to adults talk, and they imitate the way adults talk.  Language-learning is one long process of mimicry.  From the individual sounds of vowels and consonants, to speaking in complete sentences, language is imitation.

So in order to learn the language of prayer, we need to go through this same process of imitation and experimentation with words that are not our own yet, but can become our own.  We need to hear God speaking to us and speak back to God with his own Word. 

When Jesus’ disciples observed him at prayer, they begged him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  He responded by giving them the prayer that was his own (Luke 11:1-4).  They, and we, are given the grace to speak to God not in our own words, but in the words of the Son of God.  We, in a sense, pray the Lord’s Prayer with the Son of God, and his prayer becomes our prayer.

On this side of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, we too can ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  God gives us his own words, in the Scriptures, and we can pray those words back to him.  We will explore this a little bit more in the next post.

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Entry filed under: Prayer, Psalms.

Praying the Psalms with Christ – Psalm 1 Praying the Psalms with Christ – Divine Word, Human Word

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