Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms the “Prayer Book” for the church. As we spend time each day with our Bibles open and our prayers lifted, we are doing so with the expectation that we will be comforted, challenged, encouraged, and changed. Bonhoeffer’s thinking that the Psalms would guide our prayers is accurate, because the Psalmists frequently capture the emotions and struggles of the believer – whether for you personally or for the “Big C” Church at large. Someone needs to be guided by God’s word as they pray theirs.
This past week my wife and I took some time to get away. There is a reality that many of us live very busy lives, full of tasks and events that stack up throughout the days and weeks. Finding moments to rest can be a challenge. Even though God gave us a pattern of Rest each week, even our “sabbaths” tend to be activity filled! Perhaps that is why we need to pray through Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
As we read and pray through the Psalm, I want to bring two things to your attention. First of all, we see that the word “Selah” appears three times. We understand that word to mean a pause or a break. Whether sung or read, we are to group these 11 verses into three stanzas: v1-3, v4-7, and v8-11. In between each of these groups of verses we are to stop. We need to pause and reflect on what we have just read. Verses 1-3 remind us that even when the natural world rises up in calamity, with earthquakes and storms and more, we know that our refuge – our safe place – is found in God. The second stanza reminds us that Political turmoil approaches, when the stability of our society is under attack – God is stable, and is our strength and stability. The Final stanza describes violence and war around us; the imagery here wouldn’t be out of place in a period war movie. In the midst of all that, God still reigns and is over all.
The second thing we need to see in this Psalm is that God commands us to Be Still. The CSB translates it as “stop fighting,” but the impact is the same. We are commanded to stop. To be reminded that God is God. That we are to “exalt [God] among the nations,” and be “exalted in all the earth.”
Our culture is always moving. Constantly marching onward to the next thing. God instructs us to pause, to rest, and to worship in the midst of it. Often in our contemporary culture we see our Worship gatherings as high-energy, multi-media events that should be one part rock concert and one part pep rally. We want to come away feeling uplifted and excited – re-energized for the week ahead. The reality, however, is that the time we spend together with the express purpose of Worshiping almighty God should be equally exuberant and contemplative. It needs to be both exciting and calming. But above all, we need to remind one another to “Be Still, and know that [God] is God.” That He is high and lifted up, that He is in control. That God is our refuge, and our strength. Our ever present help in trouble, to whom we give thanks.
For His Glory,
Zach Kellner is the Associate Pastor of Worship at FEFC