Four years ago I attended a prayer retreat and began a new chapter of my prayer journey. Vic Black, U.S. prayer director for The Navigators, introduced me to the concept of journaling the Psalms in the first person, as though God Himself were speaking to me. I found the idea intriguing and immediately tried it out. To my delight, my efforts quickly became an intimate conversation between my Heavenly Father and myself. Over the course of several years, I rewrote selected Psalms as my prayer to my Father and then would use the same Psalm as His answer back to me. As I journaled, I related the words of the Psalm to whatever was going on in my life at that time and let my heart cry out from the depths of myself, as I imagine the original Psalmist did. When I journaled the Psalm as though God Himself were speaking to me, answering my prayer, I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and I listened to see what truths He had for me in the Psalm.
A little over a year ago, I started a journal just for the Psalms, labeling it Praying the Psalms. I began with Psalm 1 and journaled them one by one. Some of the longer Psalms I broke down into several prayers, especially Psalm 119, which I prayed by letter. With twenty-two letters, it took two months. I’ve now worked my way through Psalm 144 and with only six more to go and plenty of pages left in my journal, I will start over again at Psalm 1.
Recently, the Lord introduced me to two additional ideas, this time with regard to the first verse of each Psalms. My husband, using a Bible app on his iPhone, flipped through the Psalms and noticed the first verse of each one as it appeared on his screen. He commented how each first verse stood out when read successively that way. Not long after, a friend shared how the people in Jesus’ day (and some still today) would have immediately recalled the entire Psalm when just the first verse was quoted. (For those who memorize Scripture, its like hearing the first few words of a passage and instantly recalling the rest of the passage. Or for music lovers, hearing the first few words/notes of a song and recalling the entire the song). So when Jesus said on the cross in Matthew 27:46 (NLT), “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” quoting from Psalm 22, those listening would have recalled the entire Psalm, all the way through its description of struggles, enemies, trust, and praise, to the final verse, “His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”
As I considered the power of the first verse, I decided to try a new activity and use it as a blog series: a journey through the first verses of the Psalms, writing a short devotional on each one. Just as the Lord started a new chapter in my prayer journey with journaling the Psalms in the first person, I look forward to this new chapter on the first verse and I invite you to join me on this journey.