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James Sire: Praying the Psalms of Jesus

James W. Sire, Praying the Psalms of Jesus (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 222 pages.

James W. Sire (Ph.D., University of Missouri), formerly a senior editor at InterVarsity Press, is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. He has written many books and Bible studies, most of which are available from IVP. The current title under review attempts to demonstrate how the psalms that relate closely to the mission of Jesus can also become our answering speech. The central thesis of this book is that the psalms give us insight into God himself. Indeed, through the psalms we come to know both who God is, and who we are. The studies in this book continue the method first set forth by Sire in his Learning to Pray Through the Psalms. In the course of these pages, Sire pointedly examines nine different psalms, their relation to Jesus, and their fulfillment in Jesus. Sire lists five different goals in relation to this book, all of which are laudable: to learn what the psalms say about prayer, to learn to pray the psalmist’s words, to develop corporate prayer from the psalms, to explicate more fully the heart of Jesus as he prayed the psalms, and to suggest how by praying the psalms of Jesus, one can gain insight into humanity of our Lord.

Sire makes a bold assertion that every psalm is a psalm of Jesus (10), as each one of them undoubtedly was filtered through his mind via training in his youth. In fact, he is recorded as using the psalms more than any other Old Testament book. It’s not surprising, then, that at key moments in his life on earth, Jesus of Nazareth turned to the psalms for words to express his deepest thoughts and emotions. Fortunately for us, in the psalms, we too have a voice from eternity (12). As Sire acknowledges, it is not hard to foresee Jesus, his mind and heart saturated with the words and thoughts of the psalms, going off early in the morning to pray. In so doing, they became his answering speech to his heavenly Father. Sire forthrightly states that his desire for his readers is to inculcate the psalms Jesus used into their lives as well, making the psalms their answering speech back unto God.

Sire begins the journey into the mind of Christ by immersing readers into several psalms which Jesus himself refers to and fulfills (e.g. 22, 110, 118, 2, and 69). Within the second half of the book, entitled ‘The Psalms in Jesus’, several psalms that Jesus would have meditated upon are examined. The psalms in the second half of the book, though not typically considered messianic in orientation, all focus upon the heart and mind of Jesus (e.g. 29, 23, 45, and 80). Structural analysis of each psalm helps the reader to grow in their ability to read the Psalms. The guided personal prayer liturgy included within each chapter helps one go deeper in the experience of praying the Psalms.

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Category: Biblical Studies

About the Author: Bradford L. McCall, B.S. in Biology (Georgia Southwestern St. University, 2000), M.Div. (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2005), grew up on a cotton farm in south Georgia. A graduate student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Bradford has particular interest in teleology, causation and early modern philosophy.

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