Course: Old Testament, Prayer, Worship.
Grade Level or Age Group: I have used this approach
only with high school level students, but I suspect it would
work with younger students and adults as well.
Lesson Objectives: Understanding that the psalms were for the people of Israel (and can still be for us) a means of expressing awareness of God's presence in everyday life.
- A picture of a nature scene or a video. Select a picture that is large enough to be seen by the whole group and that depicts a scene that most would consider "breathtaking"; Scripture Posters available here can be used for this purpose.
- A class set of Bibles.
This activity needs to be done over two periods. During the first period, place the picture so that the students can see it clearly. Ask them to imagine that they are in the setting represented by the picture (that, for example, they are seated at the top of the mountain overlooking the valley and the lake). Invite the students to try to imagine what they would feel, smell, hear, think in that setting. Then, ask them to "talk to God" on paper about the scene. Tell them that you will pick up what they write, but that they do not need to put their names on the paper.
You can also have the students view this video instead of showing a picture:
Before the following period, go through everything that the students have written underlining as you go along everything that you feel can be used to build a "modern day psalm". Group similar thoughts and expressions of feelings together and type them out. This should make for a reasonably coherent whole, even without changing what the students have writen individually.
During the second period, explain to the students what you have done and invite them to listen to their "psalm" as you read it slowly to them. Using excerpts from one or two psalms, point out similarities between the psalms written close to 3000 thousand years ago and the one they just wrote together.
|Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those
who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy.
Psalm 98; 7-8
Every time I have done this activity - and I have often done so modifying the approach to fit the circumstances - I have found a similar result. During the reading of the "psalm" and several minutes afterwards all of the students were deeply quiet - that kind of quiet that calls to mind the verse "be still and know that I am God". I believe this activity allows the students to enter, at least for a few moments, into the very "Spirit" behind the psalm and to consider the possibility that that "Spirit of God" is still present in their lives today.
©Gilles Côté, 1999 - Please feel free to copy and use this material for non-profit educational purposes. Please acknowledge your source if you do so.