You must have heard of the long-running US TV series, Jeopardy – a quiz show where instead of being asked questions, contestants are given an answer and then they have to supply an appropriate question. Being a successful Jeopardy contestant requires being able to think backwards!
It’s a useful skill to develop when reading Scripture too. When reading the psalms, for example – the prayers of the people of God – it is helpful to try and imagine what was going on in the life of the psalmist that prompted him to write the words we have before us.
I’ve been reading psalm 18 this week. It seems that the psalmist (David) is grateful to God for having coming through some kind of crisis where he felt completely unable to cope (‘the cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me’). David describes how he cries out to God in his desperation.
God responds and in picturing the Lord coming to help, David makes liberal use of his poetic imagination: the earth trembles, God breathes fire and thunders from heaven. He scatters the enemy and comes down to rescue David. Then this verse, which is worth remembering: “the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps 18:18b-19).
David uses his imagination in the psalm; we should too as we make his prayer our own. Are you able to picture God parting the heavens and coming down to rescue you, scattering your enemies as he comes?
And what would it look like for God to bring you out into ‘a spacious place’? Is that a phrase that you can make part of your own prayers, words that become part of your own God-vocabulary?
How do you imagine God delighting in you? How does that mental picture shape the language of your prayers?
May the God who delights in you come to help you today and lead you into a spacious place!
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