Psalm 94

Not so many years ago, challenged by a conversation with MaryKate Morse, I vowed to pray aloud all of Psalm 94 each day for a week. MaryKate was working on A Guidebook to Prayer, and this particular prayer practice was one of those delineated in her book. 

During that week-long prayer practice with Psalm 94, I found that the hardest part was the noise.

On Monday afternoon, I prayed in a hotel room; I was attending a conference. I read, “Great is the Lord,” as a vacuum bumped against the wall in the room next door. As I pondered God’s steadfast love, I could hear the television in the room on the other side.

On Tuesday evening, I prayed in my room again but at a later time. And it was quiet. But the lack of noise made it hard for me to read the psalm aloud. I was concerned with what others might hear (and think). The most difficult line of the psalm was the one I whispered: “Rise up, O God, judge the earth.”

On Wednesday afternoon, I prayed while walking. It was raining lightly, and a nearby park was deserted. Still, I found Psalm 94 one that was difficult to speak aloud with its cries for vengeance on the wicked.

On Thursday morning, I found shelter from the rain in a coffee shop. And I read the psalm to myself, taking a sip of coffee and a bite of coffee cake before and after each reading as a symbolic step forward and back.

Then, when I was done, I wondered at why such a simple practice had seemed so hard. I wondered at my need for a kind of quiet that goes beyond silence. Because I found a quiet room on Tuesday and an empty space on Wednesday. But I could not pray as though it were just me and God. I could not stop thinking about others and what they might think if they saw, if they heard.

I could not quiet my mind, and I did not have a quiet heart. There was too much noise. Stress. Shame. Internal noise.

But I didn’t give up. Instead, I viewed my difficulty with prayer as evidence that I needed more practice.

Don’t we all?

And now, six years later, I’m not sure I’ll ever be done practicing. Because, as it turns out, prayer is a discipline. And I’m praying for you. I hope you’ll pray for me, too.

Eric Muhr