Really, all emotions are welcome in prayer. Sometimes in the world of spiritual growing, we get the sense that it is not okay to have whatever feelings we have. Anger, impatience, jealousy, frustration, fear, boredom, compassion, consolation, passion, and delight (as well as a whole list of at least 21 other emotions) are all a necessary part of the conversation if we’re going to be emotionally literate. Knowing ourselves and what matters to us, allows us to ask for what we want. Noticing our emotions creates the space for being okay with letting go when we need to.
But we are often bowled over by strong emotions that run away with us. We say and do things that make us wonder if we really are on a path toward the good, or if we have finally failed too badly to be loved by God.
The Psalms as an invitation to notice emotions
One of the biggest helps to me in learning to accept my uncomfortable (vulnerable much?) emotions has been reading and listening to the Psalms in a regular cycle. The Psalms are the ancient Hebrew prayer book. They have all the big emotions addressed directly to the Divine. Somehow emotions in prayer are not just okay, they have been an accepted part of at least two major faith traditions going on thousands of years.
Our family cycles through the reading all the Psalms every month. There are 150 Psalms, and often 30 days in a month. We follow the math (except for Psalm 119 which we read on its own separate night because it’s long!).
Reade and I have also been working on a podcasting project reading through the Psalms. We listen contemplatively for something that stands out to us. We also pay attention for an invitation that grows from the Psalms. In this way the Divine Family (a name I use frequently for God) speak to us over and over. We get to practice dialogue with one another. I highly recommend finding someone to talk to about what you see, hear, and notice.
Noticing emotions as a pathway toward healing
What I’ve noticed since the constant infusion of the Psalms started, is that I have less days where my anger rages and I blow my stack (not none, but way less!). I notice almost no thoughts of violence (this used to be a real struggle for me). I am amazed that the internal dialogue has become a lot more compassionate. Seems upside-down that by regularly acknowledging the wild range of emotions they should have less power, but that’s my experience. Listening to the Divine Family, hearing my own heart, and knowing that my whole, honest, emotional self is welcomed by the Divine has been a life-changer.
So, how are you doing with big emotions these days? Are you aware of them and able to talk about them in a safe space?
If you need a safe space to talk, I would be honoured to walk with you. Send me a message to set up a session.
And if you are looking for a way to weave the Psalms into your day by day experience, check out our podcast: Faith at Home.
P.S. Does anyone want to fund a double-blind study where the Psalms are the medicine?