The following is an excerpt from Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

God has promised to be present in the worship of the congregation. Thus the congregation conducts its worship according to God's order. But Jesus Christ himself has offered the perfect worship by perfecting every prescribed sacrifice in his own voluntary and sinless sacrifice. Christ brought in himself the sacrifice of God for us and our sacrifice for God. For us there remains only the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in prayers, hymns, and in a life lived according to God's commands (Psalms 15 and 50). So our entire life becomes worship, the offering of thanksgiving. God wants to acknowledge such thanksgiving and to show his salvation to the grateful (Psalms 50 and 23). To become thankful to God for the sake of Christ and to praise him in the congregation with heart, mouth, and hands, is what the Psalms wish to teach us. (41-42)

There are several things I find encouraging in Bonhoeffer's words, the greatest of which is his Christ-centeredness and acknowledgment of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus as the only means by which we can worship God. But I want to focus on one implication of such Christ-centered worship that is often overlooked in our contemporary reading/praying of the Psalms.

Recently, I have been pondering the seeming individualism of the Psalms. I often hear from the mouths of my peers, and I myself have said it a number of times, that the "I/me/my" language of the Psalms justifies our modern emphasis on the individual in Contemporary Praise and Worship songs and the American church as a whole. There is no question that such is the language of the Psalms, but perhaps in our quest to find approval in our individualistic tendencies we have misinterpreted what was always meant to be understood as communal, or congregational. Indeed, in my Western mind, I have the tendency to separate the individual from the communal, the personal from the corporate. Maybe this chasm, this dichotomy, is a hindrance to a right understanding of worship in general and praying the Psalms in particular.

I would submit that the individualist component of the Psalms, which is certainly there, is, for all intents and purposes, much more communal than we think. Bonhoeffer points out that David, God's anointed king, was a prototype of Jesus Christ. Obviously, David (Asaph, Solomon, etc.) prays the Psalms; he authored them. But Jesus also prays the Psalms, in the purest sense; Jesus is the Word of God, and the Psalms are inspired Scripture. So where does that place us? Well, we pray the Psalms, too.

We, that is, first of all the entire community in which alone the vast richness of the Psalter can be prayed, but also finally every individual insofar as he participates in Christ and his community and prays their prayer. David, Christ, the church, I myself, and wherever we consider all of this together we recognize the wonderful way in which God teaches us to pray. (21)

So we're back to Christ's worship, Christ's prayer, being the only acceptable offering. We simply participate in His perfect sacrifice. That is how we worship. That is how we pray the Psalms. Indeed, through Christ I pray...and it is perfectly okay for me to say that in first-person singular.

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