My wife, Donna, likes to talk to herself. As she gets ready for work in the morning, Donna typically gives herself a running verbal narrative of how things are going. Of course I can hear her, and we’ve had many comical (or sometimes frustrating) exchanges as I try to discern whether she is talking to me, to herself, or even to God. When she says to herself “I need to find my shoes,” it could be Donna making a mental checklist of what she still needs to accomplish in order to get out the door on time, or it could be a subtle hint that I should go on a hunt for her footwear. Or could it be a prayer? I mean, after all, it does take divine intervention at times to locate her shoes.
Many times, in the Psalms, the writer is speaking to the reader, then to himself, then to God, then to himself again, and so on. Obviously, speaking to God is a very good idea, But, apparently, speaking to oneself is also a healthy thing to do, especially if it is done knowing that God is audience to the things being said. Psalm 42 is such a Psalm. In several places the Psalmist speaks to God:
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you…
Deep calls to deep, at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
(Psalm 42:1, 5, 7, ESV)
In other verses the Psalmist is recounting his thoughts to others:
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
(Psalm 42:4, 8, ESV)
And twice in the Psalm the writer speaks the same refrain to himself:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:5, 11, ESV)
Early in my Christian walk, those to whom I turned for instruction in spiritual growth suggested that I try to have a “quiet time” each day, preferably in the early morning, where I turned my attention toward God as I read the Bible or other devotional material, meditated on Him, and prayed for myself and others. Certainly this is a very good idea that cultivates our relationship with the Almighty. But in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul suggests that we “pray without ceasing.” We can’t have a dedicated quiet time every waking minute of the day. The model presented to us in Psalm 42 is one where we interlace the conversation with ourselves and others with prayers whispered to God as we walk through the day-to-day experiences of this life.