The Psalms as a Guide to Life
Review posted February 7, 2023.
Nelson Books (Thomas Nelson), 2020. 230 pages.
Review written December 15, 2022, from my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.
2022 Sonderbooks Standout:
#6 Christian Nonfiction
I'll be honest, the reason I ordered this book was that I was looking for competitive titles to go with my own book that I've written about Psalms. And I was delighted with this one. I do believe that the two can go together, more complementary than competitive. They have different approaches, but someone who enjoys one book will also enjoy the other, because both books are focused on that amazing book in the center of the Bible, a book that engages your emotions and gives examples of people bringing their lives before God.
In the Introduction, the author tells us his hopes for the book:
I've written this book so readers would become excited to embrace a prayer book that has been deeply influential, not just for Jesus and the apostles and for monastic and cathedral practices of prayer but also for the hymns of the Reformation, the spirituals of African American slaves, and the songs of the global church. My hope is that church leaders and laypersons, and even seekers and "nones" (those claiming no religion), would understand that they are never alone in their sorrows, angers, doubts, joys, thanksgivings, or questions about life and death.
I love the title of the book, because it reflects the psalmists' stance before God -- Open and unafraid. The psalms are amazing in their honesty and the openness of their emotions before God. In fact, as David Taylor approaches the Psalms by looking at many different themes, he begins with the theme of "Honesty."
What the psalms offer us is a powerful aid to un-hide: to stand honestly before God without fear, to face one another vulnerably without shame, and to encounter life in the world without any of the secrets that would demean and distort our humanity. The psalms, then, are for those who know that they spend much of their life hiding secrets; they are also for those who know that standing in the presence of God "is the one place where such secrets cannot and must not be hidden."
The other themes the author takes up to look at the Book of Psalms are Community, History, Prayer, Poetry, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Enemies, Justice, Death, Life, Nations, and Creation. Every chapter includes Questions for Reflection and Exercises, all of which run deep, so this book would be wonderful material for a small group to work through together.
The psalms invite us to risk the love of God and neighbor and of the world that surrounds us with the reassurance that we do not venture this risk alone. We venture it together with an extraordinary company of fellow pilgrims across the ages.
Dive into the psalms with this book. Like the author, I hope it will encourage you to spend time reading the Book of Psalms again and again as you come to understand why they have been beloved by God's people for thousands of years.