Psalm 6: The Prayer of the Sleepless Night

Praying the Psalms

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak.
(Psalm 6:2)

I am weary with a different sort of night waking. The tears are not mine, but my teething, stuffy-nosed daughter’s, who also needs consolation. She needs milk, she needs warmth, she needs soothing, she needs to know there is someone there in the dark. She needs me.

You, Lord, need no slumber or sleep, but oh I need mine! My enemies are not clad in bronze, breathing murderous threats. I could murder my morning coffee, but my fight is against a different set of powers. Yes, I am poor in spirit, weak in flesh.

Nevertheless, your mercies abound, not only for the warrior-king, but for the servant-mother. It can be tempting to see these little ones as the enemy, thieves of sleep and sanity. But you whisper, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. This blessed beatitude is for the poor in spirit. So then, we together are perfectly poised to receive it. 

You, Lord, receive the prayer of the sleepless night. You hear our crying, and come padding down the darkened hallway to assure us of your presence. Your mercies are new, even before the morning. Yes, hour after midnight hour, we find our rest in you. 


S. D. G.

Psalm 1: The Prayer of the Wilted Tree

Praying the Psalms

Blessed is the man . . .
His delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither. 
Whatever he does prospers. 
(Psalm 1:1-3)

We are finally taking the Christmas tree down. It stopped drinking water days ago. It still does a good job of looking alive, propped up in its base and covered by sparkly things. But the growing pile of needles on the floor hints at the truth of the matter. An evergreen doesn’t exactly wither. It’s too rigid for that. As it dries out it become brittle. Hostile. The branches may be green, but they are no longer soft. They no longer smell of the forest. When I brush again them, the needles stick in my sweater, even my skin. No roots.



I wilt for want of your Word.

Oh, I am good at dressing the part, disguising my thirst in the latest shiny distraction. But underneath it all I am brittle, bitter, and hostile. Just a spark, and I am liable to go up in flames.

I want to blame it on others, on my circumstances, on my inadequacies, but I know the root cause. I have become unmoored from your Word.

Your Word is my life. It is the rain and snow and that come down from the heights, watering the earth and making the desert sing. It is my creation, my sustenance, and my renewal.

You speak, therefore I am.

If I wither, it is because I have removed myself from you, thinking I have enough in my own leaky cisternIt is not enough. 

And so I pray,

Plant me in your Word, day and night, till it becomes my delight.

Let living water rise from the depths of your being, till I am one and abiding with the Vine.

Root and ground me in your bottomless love, till the sap of your Spirit flows strong in my limbs, and I breathe out the scent of water.

Then your fruit will be my blessing, according to your Word.




Praying the Psalms: Mary’s Treasure

Praying the Psalms

I begin this journey through the Psalms in a rather odd place. Not in the Old Testament, but in the New. Not with “Blessed is the man” (Psalm 1:1) but “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45).

It was here, in Mary’s story, in Mary’s song, the great Magnificat, that I recently caught fresh wind of the Psalms.

The gospel writer Luke does not give us much information about Mary. Even Elizabeth gets a grander introduction. She is noted as being righteous and blameless, of the daughters of Aaron the priest. She has merit, and God rewards that merit with the giving of a son in her barrenness.

But Mary – nothing is made of her at all, not until Gabriel shows up and calls her “favoured.” Was she favoured because of who she was? Some “ideal woman?” Or was she favoured because of who God made her in that moment? Her list of accomplishments, her pedigree, is conspicuously absent.

And yet, the Lord must have looked upon her heart. In the end, she was willing. She was willing to be utterly defined by His Word.

What a blessing, and what a burden.

After the angel left, she was silent until she had hurried to the hill country. She was silent, until she saw the evidence of the angel’s testimony in the shapeliness of an old woman. She was silent, until the Spirit spoke through her cousin Elizabeth and sang blessing in her ears.

Blessed are you among women!
Blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Blessed is she who believed!

A trifold blessing, to wrap her completely. An affirmation of the unseen. The Word of the Lord, the shout of the Holy Spirit.

And then, she speaks. Out of the overflow of her heart, her mouth speaks.
What pours out is praise. What pours out is humble wonder. What pours out is an understanding of the swelling reach of this blessing. And what pours out is Scripture.

This we do know – Mary knew the Psalms. Hidden in her heart, the songs of the man with a heart after God’s heart. It’s right there. Psalm 103. Psalm 107. Hidden in her heart, the prayer-psalm of exalted Hannah – I Samuel 2:1-11, themes taken up by David in Psalm 18.

Out of her mouth, the echoes of her ancestors. Out of her mouth, the Spirit-breathed song continues.

It is not that Luke attributes Mary’s knowledge of Scripture as the reason for such divine favour. It is all grace, for no daughter of Eve could ever be blameless enough to deserve the miracle of miracles. But it is, I think, a clue to Mary’s character.

God chose to send His son to the womb of a woman rich in His Word.

The first time we are told Jesus heard the audible voice of His Father is at his baptism – then, a man of thirty years. “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But he must have recognized the Father’s voice, and as more than a thundering from heaven. I am almost certain his own mother whispered holy writ to him all through his growing years.

To her were given the years of the lullaby, the years of training, the years of the Shema spoken over and over, the years of sitting in the house and walking by the way and laying down and rising up. Hers were the doorposts he passed each day.

The Father prepared a place where the mother would know and speak His words. Mary’s heart was a treasure chest filled with good things – seed for sower, bread for the eater, golden drippings of the honeycomb, and a great reward indeed.



O Lord,

Let me be like your servant-mother Mary,

who hid your word in her heart,
who treasured and pondered the divine revelation,
whose greatest qualification for raising her son was to know his Father’s voice.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
And may the songs that spill over my lips be music that magnifies your Name.

Fill this hungry mother’s heart with good things,
that I would have bread for the children’s asking.

And let your mercy roll from Mary’s generation to mine,
as I pray with her,

Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to Thy Word.






A New Prayer Goal for 2017

Praying the Psalms

It’s ten days into the new year already, and I’m a little late for goal-setting. Our Christmas tree is still up. I’ve still been blasting the Christmas tunes. And I’ve just about worked my way through the seasonal chocolate stash! I’ve been dwelling in the birth story of Jesus for just a little bit longer, gradually shifting out of this time of wonder and celebration and back into action and discipline. Back into rhythm.

I’ve been thinking about the year ahead, asking God for guidance as I set goals and figure out what I need to focus my time and energies on. It feels a little daunting. My mind can spin off in so many directions. I have a lot of ideas. But also a lot of responsibilities. There’s only so much of me.

What I need most is for God to order this all so it doesn’t turn into a jumbled mess. And the only way this can happen is in that back-and-forth conversation called prayer. In prayer, I let God reorient me, and all my priorities get put into the right order.

So, first things first for 2017.

It’s a new year in my life of prayer. And my new prayer goal for this year is nothing new at all. It’s completely unoriginal, and that’s why I’m attracted to the idea.

I’m going to pray through the Psalms.

There are a few reasons I think this will be helpful for me:

1. It’s not my idea.

Like, I said, this is nothing new. Christians have been doing this in all times all over the world. The Psalms are perfectly suited to prayer. They are prayers! And what better way to pray than to join my voice with God’s own living Word. I’ll also be joining my voice with a great company of saints and witnesses. I know there is a deep and ancient wisdom at work here.

There have been times when I’ve tracked along with the psalm readings in the Book of Common Prayer. In the BCP, if you follow along with morning and evening readings, you will read through basically the whole book of Psalms in a month. I’m going to go a bit slower. I want more time to mediate on each psalm. So my goal is to read through one psalm during my morning prayer time, meditate on it, and pray a response.

2. Prayer flows more easily when I read Scripture first.

There are many days I’ve tried to start my day off with prayer, only to find I have nothing to say! Well, there are the usual pressing needs and random, meandering thoughts in my head. But when I begin with Scripture, I find God gets the conversation off on the right foot. It’s like being given a vocabulary for prayer. He speaks, and gives me the words with which to answer back. When I read the Spirit-breathed Word first, my prayers are more likely to be Spirit-led.

3. It’s simple.

In this season of life, simple is good. I don’t need any fancy prayer plans or programs. I just need my Bible and a bookmark. I’ll just keep going, one psalm after the other, and trust the process. It’s tried and tested. Simple, yet rich.


The details

I’m not putting a particular time limit on this. My goal will be to read and pray through one psalm a day, perhaps stretching some of the longer psalms out over a number of days.

I think I want to write out my responses. I’d like to keep a record of this particular prayer journey, and personally I find I often pray with more intention when I write out my prayers. I might post some of them here on the blog.

I will be doing this in conjunction with my Movements of Morning Prayer – this is my wake-up call to prayer in the morning. I like to start my day first thing with this, because it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought or alertness! (We are still not sleeping through the night over here with this stage of baby life.) Sometimes I will “wake up” to prayer while I’m nursing the baby very early in the morning, or when I’m getting myself ready for the day. In other words, I’m not sitting down with my Bible open, I’m moving in some way.

A little later in the morning, when I put the baby down for her nap, I do have a few quiet minutes when I am alert. This is when I plan to read the psalm, mediate on it, and begin to pray. After I put the baby down, I hope to be able to jot some of my prayer down in my journal.

I’m not sure how long it will take to pray my way through all 150 psalms. The goal is not efficiency, but intimacy with God.

Do you set prayer goals? What would you like your prayer life to look like in 2017?




Book List 2016


Here is the list of books I read in 2016.

I finished fewer books than I have in previous years, which I shall have to chalk up to having another baby, a very busy summer, and digging into our first real year of homeschooling.

I’ve also been reading some of these with other moms, which has been a lot of nerdy fun! We have a (mostly) classics book club going, and another group of us who are studying Homer’s Iliad. I absolutely love getting together and discussing our readings.

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
Persuasion (Jane Austen)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Till We Have Faces (CS Lewis)
The Scent of Water (Elizabeth Goudge)
The Iliad (Homer) – in progress

Surprised By Joy (CS Lewis)
Own Your Life (Sally Clarkson)
The Life-Giving Home (Sally Clarkson)
A Mother’s Rule of Life (Holly Pierlot)
How to Raise a Wild Child (Scott D. Sampson) – in progress

Teaching From Rest (Sarah Mackenzie)
For the Children’s Sake (Susan Schaeffer Macauley)
Excerpts from Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series
Excerpts from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock)

With the children:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis)
Prince Caspian (CS Lewis)
Charlotte’s Web (EB White)
And countless picture books!


Most influential:

The Iliad by Homer
This is my first foray into classical Greek literature. I began it in the spring with a group of friends, helped along by a video-based course. It’s still in progress, but I just have the final couple of books left and we’ll finish in January. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised, despite the lengthy descriptions of battle gore! Homer is a master storyteller. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what he has to offer. Homer really begins the “great conversation” of Western literature, and I know he will affect and inform much of my other reading.

A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot
I’ve read many books on mothering, but this one hit the right spot at the right time for me. Using the idea of a “rule of life” that those in religious orders are bound by, Holly encourages mothers to view their days of raising children as a true vocation from God. What she offers is a way to organize one’s life; the goal is not to create the most efficient schedule (though that may indeed be the result), but to prioritize so that the schedule is a reflection of this vocation. It’s about ordering your own attitudes and affections as much as anything else, and that’s just what I need! I need a big-picture vision before I can focus on details.

Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason continues to be the primary influence in our home education journey. I was excited this summer to obtain my very own set of the coveted pink volumes of her Original Homeschooling Series. I’m also part of a monthly group that meets to discuss her ideas and work out implementing her principles in our families.

Reading Goals for 2017

  • More Charlotte Mason! I’d like to work through at least 2 volumes of the Original Homeschooling Series. I either need to take notes or even try narration to make sure that what I read sticks! (Remembering what I read seems to be a perennial problem for me.)
  • More theology! I didn’t read much, at least on a scholarly level, this past year. I have a shelf of such books waiting to be read, so I’ll have to be more intentional about adding one of these into the rotation.
  • More classics! Our book club will be reading The Brothers Karamazov to start the year off, which will be my first exposure to Russian literature. I’m sure we’ll get to some other gems as well over the year.


My Method

I find what works best for me is to have no more than 3-4 books going at the same time. The key is to have only one book in any given category. My usual categories are:

  • Fiction
  • Spiritual/Devotional
  • Education
  • Non-fiction

Sometimes the spiritual/devotional and non-fiction categories overlap, or education and non-fiction. It just depends what I’m reading and how it strikes me.

Did you read as many books as you wanted to in 2016? What are your reading goals for 2017?