Yesterday, I met with our Men's Fellowship at 6.30 am at a local restaurant. We gather on the third Wednesday every month at the same time and place.
We order breakfast, and then I read a short passage from the Holy Scriptures, usually the gospel appointed for the Prayer Book Daily Office, and comment on it, and we pray.
Yesterday, however, I did something different.
Rather that reading from Luke's gospel, I read a portion of Psalm 119. I had read it earlier when I prayed Morning Prayer and found that it spoke to me, especially these verses:
"You are my refuge and shield; my hope is in your word.... Hold me up, and I shall be safe...."
I love the psalms because they spring from the Psalmist's heart. They express where he is on his spiritual journey, along with his faith in the power of God to save, even when besieged by troubles.
The psalms speak to me, help me, and often heal me in my journey with God.
When I'm scared or anxious, the Psalmist understands my feelings and assures me of his confidence in God. When I am beleaguered, the psalmist reminds me that God is my defender. When I'm confused, he tells me I can count on God to direct me.
When I feel God has abandoned me--this is feeling, not fact--the Psalmist cries to God for me, as in Psalm 22 in the words that Jesus Himself prays from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."
In faith, the Psalmist offers up his experiences in prayer to God, and is strengthened and nourished as a consequence, as I am in reading and praying the psalms every day.
Someone wrote that the psalms were Jesus' Prayer Book, and with good reason: the psalms communicated the deepest needs of Jesus' heart and aided His prayer to His Father in Heaven.
When we pray the psalms daily--be they from the Prayer Book Daily Office or ones of our own choosing--we pray with the Psalmist (or more accurately, with the many people of faith whose prayers were collected over time into our Psalter).
And we're praying with Jesus Himself, which is always good for the soul.
Yesterday, in speaking to the Men's Fellowship about the Psalmist's belief in God as his "refuge and shield," I could tell these men knew the battles of daily living and were encouraged by God's word to us.
With a hearty breakfast and God's word, we were ready for the day, whatever might come, for we knew that God was our strong defender. And always will be.