I read a short devotional by Philip Yancey recently. He had this to say about David, the author of many of the Psalms:
I have a sneaking suspicion that David wrote the psalms as a form of spiritual therapy, a way of “talking himself into” faith when his spirit and emotions were wavering.
He came to this conclusion after studying how often David wrote his Psalms right in the thick of things. Right as the enemy crouched at his door, literally ready to kill him. Right as he hid from a crazy king, who also sought his life. Right after he had a man killed so he could steal his wife. Right after his son betrayed him.
In those times, David would write words of praise to his heavenly father, at the same time that he complained bitterly about his enemies or wondered if God even knew he existed. The amazing thing is, that by the end of each psalm, he had pretty much worked things out. Not some perfect pretty package tied up with a bow, but somehow David and God together have connected and David, as he rises from his writing table, feels encouraged and ready to face life again.
When I taught English Composition to a home school group a few years back, we completed a psalm writing project as part of a poetry unit, and some of the results were amazing! Below I’ve written a few of the prompts I provided the kids. For me personally, I found it a moving experience that I thought others might enjoy as well.
1. Write two names of God that are meaningful to you. Why are they meaningful?
2. Write something you are thankful to God for.
3. Describe a troubling situation or need (if you have one), including how it makes you feel.
3. Write a statement about how you feel about God.
4. Think about what God is like. Now write a simile and metaphor to describe him.
5. Recall and write about a time God heard a prayer or cry of your heart.
6. Capture how you think God feels about you in a sentence or two.
These questions should illicit some creative thoughts and feelings that will likely give you the bones of a psalm. Start perhaps by asking God for inspiration. Then, write some answers to the prompts on a blank sheet of paper. Move things around to create a flow. Edit some of your word choices–pick concise, strong words. Sleep on it. Make a couple more changes. I’ll bet you’ll be pleased with the result. You can tuck it in your Bible or hang it on the fridge as a visible reminder that you and God have talked.