How the poets of Scripture show us a new depth and breadth of expression.
Posted in , Apr 18, 2021
Many of us have prayed the rhyming prayer:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
It’s not the most wholesome of prayers. What were people thinking, teaching children a prayer that suggests they could die in their sleep? Not the most pleasant idea to plant in children’s heads just before they’re expected to settle down and head off to dreamland.
But it rhymed. We had that, at least. But we gave up rhyming prayers long ago, right? However, what if we got back to rhyming our prayers—not in the way of English poetry but the way the poets of Scripture did it?
Hebrew poetry, like the verses we find in the Bible book of Psalms, didn’t rhyme sounds but thoughts. That is, the psalmists didn’t look for a word like “keep” to rhyme with “sleep.” Instead, they used a poetic technique called “parallelism.” Here are a couple examples:
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12 NIV).
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:2 NIV).
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths (Psalm 25:4 NIV).
Some parallelism in the Bible’s poems and prayers simply rephrases the first-line thought in the second line. Some amplify or intensify the first line’s thought. Some add to it, and so on. But the general idea is that the second thought “rhymes” somehow with the first.
Rhyming your prayers in this way can help you uncover or more fully express your real heart’s cry. For example, you might pray, “Lord, I’m sad today / I’m feeling completely defeated,” as the “rhyme” serves to clarify or illuminate what you really want to say. Your prayers may soon start to sound something like these recent prayers of mine:
Lord, You’ve been so good to me;
Jesus, You’ve blessed me far beyond anything I deserve.
Lord, heal my grandchildren;
touch them with Your healing power, soon and completely and miraculously.
Give me strength, Lord;
don’t let me be overwhelmed by these attacks.
I’m sure you get the idea. Try it (it’s even more helpful if you write your prayers). It may seem a tad unnatural at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get and the more likely you’ll experience a new depth and breadth in your prayers.