By way of explanation: I am trying to establish a more regular prayer life, and I'm uncomfortable with the gimme-gimme-I-want-a-pony kind of prayers that seem little more than a visit to a mall Santa. I have also found that my study of the Bible is helped when I slow down! Unfortunately, I read VERY quickly... so I've found that copying out the text helps me focus. I've copied all four gospels, and it really gave me some new insights. My current project is the Psalms, in order to help develop the habit of prayer. I got the idea from Eugene Peterson's introduction to the Psalms in his modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. To explain the connection, let me quote a passage from his introduction here:
So, what I've done in my journal is to copy each psalm (33 so far) by hand, and then to write a response to it. For the sake of not abusing copyright law more than I already have with that extended quote, I'm not going to copy the psalms themselves on the blog, but I will post my responses. I urge you to go look the psalms themselves up (preferably in a good modern translation). I'm using the NRSV in my copying, but there are a lot of good options out there. If you want help finding one, let me know. Of course, the King James Version of 1611 is available through Project Gutenberg, but while its language is majestic, its translation leaves something to be desired.Faced with the prospect of conversation with a holy God who speaks worlds into being, it is not surprising that we have trouble. We feel awkward and out of place: "I'm not good enough for this. I'll wait until I clean up my act and prove that I am a decent person." Or we excuse ourselves on the grounds that our vocabulary is inadequate: "Give me a few months--or years!--to practice prayers that are polished enough for such a sacred meeting. Then I won't feel so stuttery and ill at ease."
My usual response when presented with these difficulties is to put the Psalms in a person's hand and say, "Go home and pray these. You've got wrong ideas about prayer; the praying you find in these Psalms will dispel the wrong ideas and introduce you to the real thing." A common respnse of those who do what I ask is surprise--they don't expect this
kind of thing in the Bible. And then I express surprise at their surprise: "Did you think these would be the prayers of nice people? Did you think the psalmists' language would be polished and polite?"