The Psalms as Prayer
THE PSALMS FUNCTION both as acts of prayer themselves and as invitations to other prayers beyond these words. As an act of prayer, the psalms witness to the ways in which this community has always prayed, from its first "belief-ful" utterance until our own practice of the same speech as an act of prayer. The community uses, reuses, and rereuses these same words because the words are known to be adequate and because we have no better words to utter. The initial speakers of these words understood that prayer cannot be thought, but must be spoken. At the source of this prayer tradition, the community found a particular, peculiar spokenness that we still speak: a spokenness that is daring and subversive, attuned to the reality of human hurt, to the splendor of holy power, to the seriousness of moral coherence, and to the possibility of cosmic and personal transformation.1 The community has found these words and modes of speech faithful, adequate, and satisfying because the original articulations of prayer have—in our judgment, in our faith, and in our experience—gotten it right. We boldly reuse their speaking in our speaking.
The psalms function not only as discipline and instruction about how to pray but also as invitation and authorization to speak imaginatively beyond these words themselves. These words in the psalms
1. See Paul W. Pruyser, "A Transformational Understanding of Humanity," in
Changing Views of the Human Condition, ed. Paul W. Pruyser (Macon, Ga.: Mercer
Univ. Press, 1987), 1–11.