Friday, January 4, 2008

Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons

A book written about how gratitude can positively affect our health and attitude. This falls under the umbrella of "positive psychology" which focuses on how we can promote health (as opposed to focusing on treating disorders). The author, a professor at UC Davis, goes through scientific research on gratitude along with various philosophical, literary, and religious views on the topic as well. An inspiring book to read for the new year. The last chapter includes ten suggestions on how to move towards cultivating a more grateful attitude.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Answering God: The Psalms As Tools For Prayer by Eugene Peterson

"Whoever has begun to pray the Psalter seriously and regularly will soon give a vacation to other little devotional prayers and say: 'Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire, which I find in the Psalter.'"
-Martin Luther

Several years ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to consider memorizing chapters of Psalms and using them during prayer. This discipline has probably been one of the most influential in my prayer life since then.

Memorizing Psalms connects me with generations of Christians who have prayed the same prayers and with the psalmists who originally wrote down their pleas and praises to God. Repeating these prayers directs me to the truth of who God is and who He has been and who He will be forever. Sure, I still list my complaints and anxieties, but once I start praying the Psalms, I am reminded of who I am praying to and who is listening to me. I am then free to respond and rest in God.

This book is a guide for using the Psalms in prayer. It is rich and deep and very helpful. Some quotes:

"But the Psalms were not prayed by people trying to understand themselves. They are not the record of people searching for the meaning of life. They were prayed by people who understood that God had everything to do with them. God, not their feelings, was the center. God, not their souls, was the issue. God, not the meaning of life, was critical. Feelings, souls, and meaning were not excluded - they are very much in evidence - but they are not the reason for the prayers. Human experiences might provoke the prayers, but they do not condition them as prayers" (Peterson, 14).

"All prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experiences it traverses, ends up in praise. It does not always get there quickly or easily - the trip can take a lifetime - but the end is always praise" (Peterson, 122).