Lifeway Christian Resources’ January Bible Study, “Psalms: The Character of God,” can be a good way to begin the new year.
The Character of God
The Psalms teach believers how to pray, communicating with God the Creator. The psalmists show that prayer can be elegant, using metaphors, similes and rhythmic prose:
- “He [the godly man] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season … ” (Ps. 1:3).
- “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures … ” (Ps. 23:1–2).
- “The Lord is my light and my salvation — of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1).
The psalmists also show that prayer can be poems or songs of praise to God, thanking Him, celebrating His goodness and strength:
- “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth … . Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs … for the Lord is good and his love endures forever … ” (Ps. 100:1, 2, 5).
- “O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty … I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live … ” (Ps. 104:1, 33).
The psalmists most often, however, show that praying can be awkward or intimidating, especially for the Christian who is new to the discipline. They give today’s believers permission to ask deep, troubling questions, to voice anger and resentment.
King David and the other psalmists show that prayer is not always a perfect, polished, polite masterpiece. Nor does it have to be. Often, prayer is urgent and raw, as frantic as someone screaming from the top floor of a burning building. Prayer can be an earthy, frantic, ASAP plea for help:
- “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak … ” (Ps. 31:9–10).
- “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress … ” (Ps. 102:1–2).
Prayer can be a call from the depth of the heart of the frightened, lonely, confused or frustrated. It can be a mother’s plea for her sick newborn; tears from one who has lost a loved one; the “Why?” of a terminal diagnosis. It can be the utterance of someone in pain, expressed in unrefined or angry language.
- “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’” (Ps. 42:9).
- “You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us” (Ps. 44:10).
In studying the Psalms and becoming “friends” with the psalmists, Christians not only learn how to pray, but how to worship, gain a fuller appreciation for the Heavenly Father, and better understand God’s love and character.
The psalmists pen the words that often are difficult for believers to form and say. The Psalms captivate and engage, overflow the heart and bring believers to their knees, as they did previous generations and will do in the future.
How to host a Bible study group
- Decide where to meet: Some enjoy gathering in a home, but a classroom in the church building can be more advantageous — everyone knows the location; it provides a safe, familiar setting; and, in case of accident or injury, the church carries proper insurance.
- Decide whether to meet during the day or evening, and set a certain time to begin and end, sticking to it closely.
- Name the goal: The purpose of Lifeway’s January Bible Study 2022 is to “come together,” learn about the character of God as revealed in the Psalms, study what it means to live as God’s people who demonstrate His character in a fallen world, and relax and fellowship, strengthening friendships.
- Seat everyone, serve refreshments where appropriate and ask each participant to introduce him or herself.
- After introductions, ask the leader to introduce the Bible study, sharing the material, the study process and procedure, and the purpose and goals.
- Invite everyone to participate. Make sure those who wish to contribute are allowed to do so. Ask participants to keep their comments brief and be considerate of the others who wish to share.
- Begin and end each meeting with prayer.
- Bible study resource: Produced by Lifeway, “Psalms: The Character of God Personal Study Guide eBook,” includes electronic content for seven sessions, applicable scripture and learning activities.
Leader and study guides
“Psalms: The Character of God” January Bible Study 2022: Leader Guide, $13.99: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/january-bible-study-2022-psalms-leader-guide-P005831440?intcmp=lw:recs:pdp:1&merch=rec:005831440
“Psalms: The Character of God” January Bible Study 2022: Personal Study Guide eBook, $8.99: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/january-bible-study-2022-psalms-personal-study-guide-ebook-P005831439?intcmp=lw:recs:pdp:5&merch=rec:005831439