Opening the Book on Prayer: Learning to Pray with the Psalms

This past Monday night for our quarterly Leadership Community gathering at Eastbrook Church, I led us in an interactive seminar on learning to pray with the psalms. A few people asked if I could upload the slide deck from the night, so I’m including that as a PDF here.

I led us in three songs, which were:

I also shared a bibliography of additional resources on the psalms, which I’m including below.


Further Reading on the Psalms

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together and The Prayerbook of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 5. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996.

Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner. The Book of Psalms. NICOT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.

Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. New York: Viking, 2015.

Derek Kidner. Psalms 1-72. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

________. Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

C. S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harper, 1958.

Eugene H. Peterson. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. New York: Harper Collins, 1989.

W. David O. Taylor. Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2020. 

N. T. Wright. The Case for the Psalms. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Two resources from the Bible Project (https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/psalms/) are: 

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 April 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


sotc-yellow“Holy Week: Practicing the Most Sacred Rhythm of All” – Ruth Haley Barton at Beyond Words, the blog for The Transforming Center: ““Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.” C.S. Lewis.   I remember leading a retreat for pastors some years ago in which we talked about that place in the spiritual journey (variously called the Dark Night, the wilderness, the movement from the false self to the true self) in which there is a very profound kind of death and dying that must take place in order for something truer to emerge. We talked about the fact that it is a time when even those who have been faithful to the spiritual journey may experience loss and disillusionment, when we are humbled, confused and even begin to question those things that we used to be so sure of. It feels like dying because in some sense it is. We are dying to what is false within us—surrendering that which is passing and needs to pass—in order to be more completely given over to God. After that teaching, I walked to lunch with several young men who were in their late twenties/early thirties. They were elders at a hip and happenin’ church that was growing and developing in good ways and they had a question. I don’t remember the exact words now but it was something like this, ‘Does everyone have to go through this kind of death and dying? How can we do ministry in such a way that we don’t have to pass through such a dark night? And if we can’t, is there any way we can speed up the process so we can get it behind us?’ What they were really asking was, Isn’t there any way we can be good enough so we don’t have to die?”


spirituals“Go Tell It on the Mountain: Black spirituals aren’t just for Black churches. They should be sung by everyone”  – Stephen Michael Newby in Plough Quarterly: “It’s Christmas Eve 2021, and here I am, a descendant of enslaved Africans, leading my predominantly White Presbyterian congregation in Atlanta, Georgia, in singing the Black spiritual ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain.’ The song is not being presented to the congregation as a performance concert piece. Instead, I’ve prepared an arrangement that allows it to be what it was always meant to be: a relational, transformative, communal act of worship that joins us together. My great-grandfather six generations removed, Michael, who was enslaved less than a hundred miles from here in Jones County, Georgia, would never have imagined such a picture. I am deeply moved and thankful for this moment in time and how far we have come. Three years before I arrived at this church, I visited the Jones County archives to research my ancestry. I found the graves of the Newby family, the White landowners in the area. I stood in front of a Newby tombstone, fists clenched and heart grieved, imagining all that my ancestors had suffered at this man’s hands. The sun was shining brightly. Even the mosquitoes were quiet. At that moment God spoke into my heart and said, ‘Be reconciled.’ I had already spent three decades trying to bridge divides by bringing different genres of music into conversation. But now this call to live out reconciliation with others would lead me to share my people’s music with predominantly White congregations throughout the United States and particularly here in the South. Whatever our personal histories, I can think of no better way to express our shared longing for liberation from the bonds of racism than the spirituals.”


St Michael's Ukraine“In pictures: The Ukrainian religious sites ruined by fighting” – Jack Hunter at BBC News: “Ukraine has accused Russia of damaging or destroying at least 59 religious sites across the country since its invasion began. They include an Orthodox cathedral with its steeple ripped apart, a Jewish school struck by shelling, and parish churches left almost totally flattened. Targeting historic monuments and cultural heritage sites is a war crime under international law, according to the Hague Convention. Russia denies targeting civilian infrastructure, but the BBC has identified a number of religious sites that have suffered damage. St Michael’s Cathedral was described by Mariupol’s tourist office as ‘the most beautiful place’ in the city’s Left Bank district. Offering ‘panoramic views of the Sea of ​​Azov, green hills and coastal villages,’ the cathedral – opened in 1997 – attracted both worshippers and visitors alike, it said. But after weeks of relentless Russian bombardment on the southern port city, the Orthodox cathedral’s crowning dome is now a mangled heap of exposed steel and smashed brickwork.”


Belfast movie“The Best Movies of 2021” – Brett McCracken at The Gospel Coalition: “Twenty years ago this month, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring released in theaters. I was a freshman at Wheaton College and went to see it with a group of dorm friends. It was a magical, memorable movie-going experience; awesomely cinematic and transportive. In retrospect, I wonder if that trilogy was the last great ‘big’ cinematic event. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s films and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, few movie-going experiences have matched the awe I experienced watching Lord of the Rings. Will we ever have movies like that again? Movie-watching is changing. The screens are smaller, the experience less communal. For all but the biggest-tentpole superhero movies, most people seem to prefer watching movies from the convenience of home. How will the evolving economics of Hollywood change the nature of the films produced? Time will tell. In the meantime, interesting and soul-enriching films are still being made. On that note, the following is my list of the best films of 2021.”


Jesus-mosaic-with-conservationist-640x400“Earliest mosaic in Israel dedicated to Jesus may soon be sprung from prison” – Amanda Borschel-Dan in The Times of Israel: “Plans are underway to move Megiddo prison in order to excavate the Israeli church with the earliest mosaic dedicated to Jesus. In 2004, a Greek inscription ‘to the God Jesus Christ’ was uncovered inside a 3rd-century structure during Israel Antiquities Authority salvage operations ahead of a proposed expansion of the prison in northern Israel. On Thursday, Israel Prisons Service, Megiddo Regional Council and Israel Antiquities Authority personnel toured the Megiddo Prison in preparation for the prison’s evacuation ahead of renewed excavations at this important early Christian site, according to the IAA’s Hebrew Facebook page. The new excavations may commence in June, according to the post. In 2004-2008, Dr. Yotam Tepper headed excavations at the prison ahead of the proposed expansion. Now, in light of the significant archaeological finds, discussions are well underway to relocate the entire prison complex, re-expose the mosaics underneath and build a tourist site. ‘This structure is interpreted as the oldest Christian prayer house in the world… and in fact, it tells the story of Christianity even before it became official.'”


128136“C.S. Lewis Was a Modern Man Who Breathed Medieval Air” – Louis Markos in Christianity Today: “In the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien tells us two things about his beloved hobbits that identify them as medieval in their thinking and their behavior. First, their relationship to technology is distinctively premodern: ‘They love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools.’ Second, their taste in books runs toward old masters like Dante, Chaucer, and Thomas Aquinas; they would not have enjoyed or understood the radical originality of novels by modern writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, or Virginia Woolf. Indeed, ‘they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.’…Like his friend Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was a man who loved all things medieval and who infused all that he wrote with a premodern ethos that hearkened back to an older, more traditional understanding of technology, books, wisdom, and morality.”


Music: The Gesualdo Six, “Agnus Dei” from Mass for five voices by William Byrd, at Ely Cathedral

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 August 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“‘They Cannot Burn Jesus Out of Me’: Mozambique Pastors Minister to Survivors of Violent Insurgency” – Stefani McDade in Christianity Today: “Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions. The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing.”


“The Best C. S. Lewis Book You’ve Never Read” – Jeremy Larson reviews Michael Ward’s new guide to reading C. S. Lewis Abolition of Man at The Gospel Coalition: “C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, first published in 1943, begins with a related question: Should a comment about the sublimity of a waterfall be seen as an expression of a subjective opinion or as an appropriate feeling that aligns with reality? Abolition was one of Lewis’s favorites among his works and it has been ranked as one of the top five nonfiction books (in English) of the 20th century. Yet Abolition remains difficult reading for many people, leading some to wish for a guide. Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia) has written such a book to help readers: After Humanity: A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.”


“4 Stats That Will Change the Way You Pastor” – From CT Creative Studio: “Casey Cleveland, lead pastor of The Avenue Church in Delray, Florida, has a hunch. ‘I’m catching the vibe that people want the church to be the church,’ he says. ‘Even for those who don’t understand theology—the world is asking us to step into being the church.’ Cleveland isn’t the only one catching the vibe. New research from Barna and Gloo shows that people across the country have expectations for the churches in their communities. Even those who haven’t darkened the door of a church in decades have thoughts about the church’s role in society.”


“Ignorant, but curious” – Austin Kleon at his blog: “‘What if you played an ignorant guy who was actually curious?’ is how the actor Jason Sudeikis explains his approach to his character, Ted Lasso.1 It’s a method of acting, but it could be a method of life. (A method we’ve covered before: ‘Teach your tongue to say I don’t know’ and ‘learn to play the fool.’) The method is perhaps best summarized by Mike Monteiro: ‘The secret to being good at anything is to approach it like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.’ The ‘curious idiot’ approach can serve you well if you can quiet your ego long enough to perform it.”


“Bookworms can ‘read’ people, too” – Mary Ellen Gabriel at UW College of Letters & Science: “More than any other genre, fiction is the realm of emotion. “Getting lost in a story” means entering a world we don’t want to leave, where we are fully absorbed not only in the actions of the characters, but also in their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Throughout the experience, readers pass through their own emotion states, triggered by the words and phrases. Now it appears that this rich, often fraught, journey of the imagination—so often considered a solitary pleasure—is good training for reading the emotions of people in real life. A new study by a team of psychology researchers at UW-Madison provides important new insight into a likely causal link between reading fiction and emotion recognition, combining behavioral experiments with methods from the digital humanities to show that exploring the mental states of fictional characters helps people recognize emotion expression in other human beings.”


“Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist” – From the Royal Museums Greenwich: “The shortlisted images from 2021’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed. The largest astrophotography competition in the world, Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcases the very best space photography from a global community of photographers. Now in its 13th year, the competition received a staggering 4,500-plus entries, submitted from 75 countries worldwide. Check out an incredible selection of the shortlisted images below.”


Music: Vikingur Ólafsson, “Badzura: Muse d’eau,” from Reflections Pt. 3 / RWKS.

C. S. Lewis, “Evensong” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is C. S. Lewis’ poem “Evensong.” While C. S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia books and other writings on Christian themes, such as Mere Christianity, Lewis was a scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Amidst all this, Lewis was an occasional writer of poetry, which was edited by Walter Hooper and published posthumously in Poems.


Now that night is creeping
O’er our travail’d senses,
To Thy care unsleeping
We commit our sleep.
Nature for a season
Conquers our defences,
But th’ eternal Reason
Watch and ward will keep.

All the soul we render
Back to Thee completely,
Trusting Thou wilt tend her
Through the deathlike hours,
And all night remake her
To Thy likeness sweetly,
Then with dawn awake her
And give back her powers.

Slumber’s less uncertain
Brother soon will bind us
—Darker falls the curtain,
Stifling-close ’tis drawn:
But amidst that prison
Still Thy voice can find us,
And, as Thou hast risen,
Raise us in They dawn.

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 March 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


Leland Ryken“Leland Ryken: Teaching Literature and the Bible as Literature” – As an undergraduate studying English literature at Wheaton College (IL), I had the privilege to study under Leland Ryken, an authority on John Milton, but also a man of God passionate about reading and teaching the Bible well. His 1984 book How to Read the Bible as Literature had a monumental impact upon me and continues to have great influence on many others today. I was privileged to serve with a couple others as a research assistant with Ryken and Jim Wilhoit on The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Here is Chase Replogle’s Pastor-Writer podcast interview with Ryken as he prepares to release a new book, Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.


Li-Young Lee“A Conversation with Li-Young Lee” – With my undergraduate studies in literature, I find tremendous joy in both reading and writing poetry. Here is a fascinating interview of Li-Young Lee, one of our most powerful contemporary poets, by Paul T. Corrigan in Image Journal: “Li-Young Lee’s books of poetry include Rose (1986), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award; The City in Which I Love You (1990), which was a Lamont Poetry Selection; Book of My Nights (2001), which won the William Carlos Williams Award; From Blossoms: Selected Poems (2007), and Behind My Eyes (2008). His other work includes Breaking the Alabaster Jar, a collection of twelve interviews edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, and The Winged Seed (1995), a memoir which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957. In 1959, the family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese persecution and lived in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan before settling in the United States in 1964. Lee attended the Universities of Pittsburgh and Arizona and the State University of New York at Brockport. He has taught at several universities, including Northwestern and the University of Iowa. His awards include fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and Guggenheim Foundation, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the I.B. Lavan Award, three Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Chicago. He was interviewed by Paul T. Corrigan.”


stanley-hauerwas“Peacemaking Is Political: An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas by Charles E. Moore” – Stanley Hauerwas is undoubtedly the most renowned, and at-times controversial, Christian ethicist of our day. His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Social Ethic, is a seminal work on Christian ethics in the contemporary era. In Plough Quarterly, Charles E. Moore interviews Hauerwas in what becomes an exploration of Jesus-centered ethics, peace-making and non-violence, narrative frames, how peace is political, and so much more. While we may not agree with everything Hauerwas speaks about, he will certainly provoke each of us toward deep thinking about Jesus and what it means to be the church and a disciple of Jesus in an age of violence, tension, and distrust.


spirituals“Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance” – From Kaitlyn Greenidge in The New York Times: “This imaginative leap is most on display in spirituals. These are the songs, born from rhythms of stolen labor, that enslaved Black people invented on the plantations. They are an early instance of the kind of doublespeak and double consciousness made famous by W. E. B. DuBois. They served, on the one hand, as a testament to the Christian experience but also, on the other, as a way to articulate a resistance to slavery. Spirituals, like many other musical genres across the African diaspora, draw on traditions from West Africa. But spirituals are unique to the experience of the enslaved in the United States — the same artistry and craft that birthed them here produced recognizable, but decidedly different, music across the Caribbean and South America.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Reading Old Books: C. S. Lewis’ Introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation – In his introduction to St. Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, C.S. Lewis shares his extended reflections on the importance of reading widely, but always reading deeply, in terms of reaching deeper into previous eras to converse with ancient voices, whose different contexts and different issues can help provide perspective on our own context and issues. If you’ve never read Lewis’ fine words in that introduction let me encourage you to read it here. While you’re at it, you may enjoy reading the work Lewis is introducing itself. Athanasius is one of the most important theologians in the history of Christianity.


Christ Church Melaka Malaysia“Malaysia High Court rules Christians can use ‘Allah'” – From the BBC: “Malaysia’s high court has overturned a policy banning Christians from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, the latest in a decades-long legal battle. It comes as part of a case brought by a Christian whose religious materials were seized as they contained the word. The issue of non-Muslims using “Allah” has in the past sparked tension and violence in Malaysia. Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the population, but there are also large Christian communities. These Christian communities argue that they have used the word “Allah”, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights. Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But religious tensions have risen in recent years.”


Music: John Tavener, “The Lament of the Mother of God” (1988), performed by Solveig Kringelborn, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Winchester Cathedral Choir under the direction of conductor David Hill.