As I Pray My Way Through the Psalms, I Discover Mortality, Misery, Majesty, and Mercy!

The Bible is saturated with the prayers of God’s people.  Learning the language of prayer from Scripture has rooted me, in reality, more times than I care to remember.

One of the ways I define prayer is as the ongoing enjoyment of an interactive relationship with Christ.  Prayer, informed by Scripture and gently tethered to tradition, is not the only way, but it is the essential way I enjoy communion or fellowship with God.

Enjoying fellowship with God may not come as quickly as you think.  Indeed, the company of the Lord is unlike company with any other. 

He May Not Be Safe, But He’s Good

When I keep the company of God in prayer, I find that I discover (or uncover) who I truly am – the actual, real, inner Biz Gainey – the one often hidden from the world and not apparent to myself.

The Biz Gainey who exists when my doing, striving, succeeding, and directing is peeled away, and there is just me – a child of the King. 

A human – being.

This self-discovery is not a discovery at all, at least not in the contemporary use of that term. I discover who I am only in relationship with the discovery of who God is.

The God who reveals Himself to me in the Scriptures.

I’ve noticed, over time, a direct correlation between my growth in Christ and my active engagement with or relationship to His word in prayer.

Eugene Peterson once said, “Prayers are tools not for doing or getting, but for being and becoming.”

Being and Becoming

As I find Him, I find myself. 

While in His presence, I discover and rediscover that I am both being and becoming.

The language of Scripture, intentionally cultivated through praying the Psalms, is an immense asset in this lifelong discovery journey.

Saturating my prayer life within the prayers of the Bible brings me face-to-face with two realities I otherwise wouldn’t choose to face:

  1. Human Mortality and Misery.
  2. God’s Majesty and Mercy.

I don’t like the idea of mortality, and it’s not often I consider the biblical reality of God’s majesty.

The prayers of the Scriptures help me do both.

Settle in.  Take a journey with me through this beautiful Psalm (Psalm 144). 

I will offer some reflections that may serve as handles and then provide a way to personalize it and pray it as you go about your day.

The first half of this Psalm serves as a steadying and orienting reality around my mortality and the misery we often face.

See the highlights below in vv. 1-4

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle, my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under me. O Lord, what are humans that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:1-4

These words and phrases help me see reality rightly. 

Meaning and Misery Are Always In The Mix

They are potent reminders of the trials and challenges I face and the transitory nature of being human.  We are but vapors – here today, gone tomorrow – and this mist, though infused with meaning, is plagued by misery. As I meditate on them, I remember my mortality and the misery that I may face in this world.  I am grounded in reality and more able to navigate the pain, despair, and dysfunction that often invades my life.

Yes, misery is absolute – I need to get a handle on that so I don’t expect too much of the day.

That I am mortal is accentuated in stark imagery.  I am called a breath, a passing (fading) shadow quickly burned off the horizon with the dawn of the new day.

If this were all there is, why wake up in the morning?

The Psalm answers that question by exploring the majestic presence of God in our world.

Consider vv. 5-8,

Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains so they smoke; make the lightning flash and scatter them; send out your arrows and rout them. Stretch out your hand from on high; set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hands are false. Psalm 144:5-8

Praying What Is Possible and Hope We Desperately Need

As I pray this portion of the Psalm, I see God rightly.  Meditating on these words and phrases reignites my imagination regarding all that’s possible in the world.

Praying my way through the Psalm, I eventually discover the majesty of God.


Because the Psalmist is exploring God’s majesty.

The majesty of God – a real and present help in times of trouble – is neither bound to nor limited by the mortality and misery previously expressed.

The imagery incorporates a dynamic play on words.

You could read this as God shaping the heavens into a weapon of His own design (bow and stretch are the pivotal terms here), by His own use, and for His select purpose of rescuing the lost – the needy – the one who is being villainized by the world. This imagery is one of a warrior who utilizes the entire power of heaven, infused with His divine presence.

Peel Back What Is Hidden And Enjoy His Presence

Another way to read it is to imagine that God doesn’t wield heaven as a weapon as much as He peels back the layers of separation and joins us in our plight.

He takes note and bends the heavens – shrinking the perceived space between us and Him.

However you view this, the primary emphasis is on the majesty of God and the control He and He alone exhibits over and through creation.

I am drawn to His shrinking the perceived space between the heavens and the earth.

I imagine Him joining me in my struggle – piercing my perception with His arrows – burning my fears with His touch – and strengthening my weakness with His strong right arm.

There’s a delightful majesty in this mercy.  A majesty that invokes fear and awe yet generates hope and provides security. Such majesty submerged in mercy reinforces the imagery of God as a rock and refuge.

Experiencing God in this way provides language I desperately need to help me make sense of this life I lead.

Mortality, Misery, Majesty and Mercy

Bringing it all together, the following biblical realities are now powerfully involved in my life.

  1. I am mortal.  As such, I face the limits and fears of mortality.
  2. Life is, at times, misery.  The Bible is crystal on this point.  It’s we who are confused.
  3. God is majesty.  He’s not simply majestic as if it’s a quality He exhibits.  He is majesty.  It’s who He is.
  4. He acts with mercy. He answers – in majestic life-defying ways – when I call.

These are just four powerful images eight verses of one Psalm provide.

I discover them only as I pray and meditate on the Psalm. I am chewing on it as it chews on me.

These truths inform my relationships in ways that bring more meaning to them and provide more context for them.

Does your faith feel weak? Perhaps developing a thoughtful, contemplative rhythm of praying the Psalms will provide the strength you seek.

This I know. Doing so will bring you face to face with who you are, who God is, and why getting those things right matters most in this world.