Psalms; Prayers of the Heart, Revised Edition LifeGuide Scripture StudiesPsalms; Prayers of the Heart, Revised Edition LifeGuide Scripture Studies
Eugene H. Peterson
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The Psalms show us how to relate to God as we pray our doubt, fears, and anger. They show us how to respond to God in praise. Here we find the best place to explore who we are and what God means to us. This revised LifeGuide Bible Study features additional questions for starting group discussions and for meeting God in personal reflection, together with expanded leader's notes and an extra "Now or Later" section in each study. 64 pages, softcover from InterVarsity Press.
     

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Study 1

Praying Our Inattention


Psalm 1

Family responsibilities. Work deadlines. Education goals. Home maintenance. So much is clamoring for our attention each day. And that’s not to mention the distractions that come from the media. Most of us can’t step immediately from the noisy high-stimulus world into the quiet concentration of prayer.

GROUP DISCUSSION. What thoughts and concerns most often distract when you begin to pray?

PERSONAL REFLECTION. Attempt to clear your mind before you begin to study. Sit in silence for a few moments. What thoughts and concerns come to mind? List them. Ask God to help you to focus on what he wants you to learn.

Psalm 1 is not prayer, exactly, but the preface to prayer. We do not begin to pray by praying but by coming to attention. Psalm 1 is the biblical preparation for a life of prayer. Step by step it detaches us from activities and words that distract us from God so that we can be attentive before him. Psalm 1 provides a kind of entryway into the place of prayer. Read Psalm 1.

1. What contrasts do you notice in the psalm?

2. The first word in the psalm is blessed. (Some translate it happy.) What kind of expectations should that bring to our life of prayer?

3. What significance do you see in the progression from walk to stand to sit (v. 1)?

4. “The law of the LORD” is contrasted with the words counsel, way and seat. What does this contrast bring out?

5. The psalmist describes the person who delights in God’s law (v. 2). What is your emotional response to Scripture—not what you believe about it but how you feel about it?

6. Tree is the central metaphor of the psalm (v. 3). Put your imagination to use. How are law-delighting people like trees?

7. In what ways are the wicked like chaff (vv. 4-6)?

8. How do these two radically different portraits (the tree-righteous and the chaff-wicked) motivate you to delight in God’s Word?

9. Do you feel a gap (or chasm!) between “real life” (work, school, family) and your prayer life? Explain.

10. How does meditation—listening to God speak to us through Scripture—prepare us for prayer?

11. How can you incorporate meditation on God’s Word into your life?

12. Some prayer is spontaneous—a word of thanks, a cry of pain. Other prayer is routine—at meals, in public worship. But a life of prayer requires preparation, a procedure for moving from inattention to attention. The same method will not suit everyone. How can you develop an approach to meditation that fits your circumstances and development?

Ask God to help you keep your commitments to meditate and to pray

Now or Later
Psalm 119 is an excellent passage to use in meditation. Use short chunks of it to reflect on as you prepare to pray this week.