The first bible study I remember leading was on Psalm 139. I was 15 and on a summer mission camp in Whitley Bay. 139 grabbed me then, and has stayed precious to me ever since. Why don’t you read it now?
Rather than go into detail about the whole thing – there is loads here – I want to pull out a few chunks and suggest ways you could turn them to prayer.
(Prayer image found on CreationSwap)
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Part of what first attracted me to this Psalm was the idea of being fully known by God. The idea that he discerns me and still accepts me. Deeply appealing to an awkward teenager, still appealing now.
I sometimes like to imagine feeling God’s gaze, his loving, focused attention, on me. Remind yourself that God is with you, let yourself be known by him. Sit for a while under his focus.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
Another attractive image: The God who watched over your creation. I love the phrase: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It’s quite hard to say that to God and really mean it sometimes. We’re usually eager to change or improve ourselves. A consequence of sitting under God’s gaze is we that we start to see ourselves in the same way he sees us. Could you start to praise God for the way he has made you? Can you give thanks for the fearful and wonderful creativity there is visible in your life?
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
For a while these last verses felt like a painful intrusion to a lovely affirming prayer. Its easy to quietly omit them and finish counting sand and pondering God’s vast thoughts. I have come to love this little shock at the end. One moment the writer is musing on goodness, the next there is visceral anger that things aren’t as they should be. I love that Israelite worship had a place for thoughts of pain and anger like this.
Are there frustrations and angers you need to bring before God? Can you tell him about them now?
Anger is not the last word of the Psalm, frustration is vented towards heaven and then the writer settles again. “Search me… know my heart…” Do they perceive a divine eyebrow raised at the thoughts of slaying and hatred? Maybe. The Psalm that started with being known ends with a kind of repentance, a commitment to being open before God and to follow in the way everlasting.
Can you make the final verses you prayer? Ask God to search you more deeply and lead you in his way.