The Old Testament Tells All

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The Hebrew Scriptures place internal struggles on full display—and teach us a lot about spiritual practice.

[Read in Portuguese or Indonesian]

This is the fifth in a six-part series of essays from a cross section of leading scholars revisiting the place of the “First Testament” in contemporary Christian faith. —The editors

I am not an Old Testament theologian, but I have loved the Old Testament for a long time.

I had quiet times before I knew they were a requirement for Christian living, and during such times I found myself naturally and inexplicably drawn to the Old Testament. I would take my Bible and a journal—and sometimes a Bible study guide or a book of poetry—and lose myself in it all.

The Psalms in particular were amazing to me. They were full of the same rampage of emotions I was experiencing as an adolescent: anger and sadness, loneliness and questions, yearning and passion, worship and awe. When I was immersed in the Psalms, I felt understood and comforted—as if someone really got me. When I read David’s confessions of sin or his seething imprecations against his enemies, I knew there was nothing I couldn’t name in God’s presence. Nothing was out-of-bounds. For a passionate, melancholy young girl and pastor’s kid in a conservative religious environment, this was no small thing! The Psalms gave me a place to be and to breathe; I loved God because of what I experienced with God there.

I realize now that I was learning how to pray not so much from the teachings in the New Testament (valuable as they are) but from actually praying along with the great pray-ers of the Old Testament. To me, it wasn’t old at all; it was fresh and new. The psalm writers gave me words when I had none, jump-starting my own prayers. This was my earliest experience of being shaped spiritually …

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