- What are three words that describe you?
- What is something that most people don’t know about you?
- Who is someone you admire and why?
Conversation starters like these can cut through the space and tension at a table when I find myself sitting with strangers. It might be a work event or a ministry meeting. I might be sitting alone with my thoughts surrounded by tablemates. I need to connect.
Questions, provided by a kind host, can help break through the ice that might form between those thrown together in purpose and place but with little commonality. The free-flowing conversation might begin as a trickle and rapidly move into a torrent of laughter and shared experience. Once it gets started.
Sometimes meeting with God feels like arriving at a table set for two and sitting down and not knowing how to start the conversation. My default setting is to move into a drive-thru mode and place my order and drive away into the rest of my busy day. “Please watch over my granddaughter today in her new class, please heal my friend who had surgery, and help my husband with a difficult situation at work. Thank you and amen.”
All for the sake of efficiency, I have “cut to the chase” and saved the small talk. I made my petitions. God knows what I need, and I can check daily prayer off my list. Right?
What if I had prayer conversation starters, like those questions I began with, available at my fingertips? How could I use those to enter conversations with God at a deeper level? Could I have discussions where I listen as much as I talk? Could I avoid moving with lightning speed to my goals and my own agenda?
The book of Psalms can provide prayer prompts. Psalm 96, likely written by King David, because it contains some direct quotes from him from 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 ESV. That passage reports about how David praised God when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.
This psalm is a liturgy for worship and praise. It is designed to be declared aloud because sometimes we need to actively participate in praising God with every part of us.
This psalm is constructed like a set of concentric circles that grow larger. It first speaks to the people of God, then to all the nations, and finally to creation itself. This psalm takes the one who prays it and interacts with it on a journey that can shift perspective.
Why not join me on the journey as I process through Psalm 96? Read through each set of verses and then write out a response.
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Thank you, Lord, for putting a new song in my heart today. I will choose to sing your praises today. Open my eyes to the opportunities you have placed in my path to share stories about what you are doing and have done in my life.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
How can I help another person catch a glimpse of your glory, today? What can I do to be more faithful to testify about what you are doing for me and my people?
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Lord, you are the creator of the heavens, and yet so many people do not see that. They are lured by what the world worships instead of you. What idols do I allow to distract me? Do I worship at the altar of people-pleasing? The icon of busyness? Lord, examine my heart to reveal anything or anyone I am putting before you.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts!
Thank you for working in my family to bring more members into your kingdom in recent months. What a joy it is to live to see answers to prayer after years of praying. Help me to continue to be faithful to living a generous life. Guide me to be quick to give sacrificially and according to your will.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Give me the courage to lift my voice to worship you, Lord in all places and with all people. Thank you that I can rest today in the truth that you reign. You have authority and do judge fairly and justly even when I don’t understand. Thank you for your work and reign that rolls out even when I can’t see it all working out.
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;12a let the field exult, and everything in it!
Show me each and every day your creation praising you. Help me to take note of the sunset reflecting your majesty across the sky, and the fields transformed from one season to another with vivid colors. Help me boldly call attention to these displays.
12b Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Lord, you started your story with a tree, and trees continue to point to your presence. Open my ears to hear the songs of praise that trees are singing for you. Thank you, Father, for seeing the righteous and the faithful. When you do come back, let me be found keeping company with these saints. Thank you that your judgments are wrapped in your faithful nature. You, Lord, see my heart completely and still love me well.
Have you ever used a Psalm as a conversation starter with God? If you try it, I would love to hear about your experience.
I created a simple worksheet for Psalm 96, feel free to download it.