The Psalms literally stop us in our tracks. We have been walking our own way, the way of the world, the way of the wicked (v. 1). We have treated the world like a spectator sport where our sofa becomes the seat of judgment (v. 2). The psalms are an invitation to know God and to know ourselves, and thus an invitation to pray. Here in Psalm 1, we receive this invitation not as a list of things to do but as a cease and desist order. Stop walking, stop standing, stop sitting. Stop talking and listen. The law of the Lord is heeded only as it is received as a sabbath of hearing.
Hear the words of the Lord, hear how his ways are so different than the acquisitive, reductive ways of the world. Hear and find joy.
The verbs for the righteous are deceptively passive: delight, meditate, be planted. I mean how do you delight in something? Do you think about it really hard? But this is the paradox of prayer. Prayer is not first a speaking, but a hearing. God’s initial speech in Genesis 1, “Let there be light,” bathes the whole of creation in the illuminating grace of God. It’s in response to the world-creating words of the Lord that we speak, that we pray. Like babies copying the sounds and syllables of their parents, we learn to speak in listening. In hearing ourselves addressed by God, we can turn from the ways of sinners. We can repent. In hearing the Law of the Lord we are initiated into the customs and cultures of a new world. In hearing the Law of the Lord we are planted in the well-watered sunlight of the love of God.
Psalm 1 invites us to listen, to hear and to pray. Prayer is the grounds of grace, the fertile soil of new life where our lives stand tall in the love of God in every season. Psalm 1 initiates us into the rhythms of the psalter, into living, real living. Our lives are only truly alive when we are alive to God and thus the psalm 1 invites us to rest in the grace of God.
Verse for meditation: They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper (v.3).