07 Jun What Bono’s Reflections on the Psalms Teach us about Hearing God’s Voice
It was an unusual pairing. Eugene Peterson, author of the popular Message translation of the Bible meets Bono, lead singer of U2. Bono first connected with Peterson back in 2002 to thank him for the work that had so deeply impacted him: “No translation I’ve read speaks to me in my own language.” Their conversation at Peterson’s Montana home is a revealing one that contains an important message for musicians and artists, but also highlights a key for all those wanting to hear God’s voice. Watch their conversation here:
You’ll notice that Bono and Eugene talk a lot about honesty – particularly in the Psalms. As Bono says; “They have this rawness… the psalmist is brutally honest about the explosive joy he’s feeling …as well as the deep sorrow and confusion” (11:40). For Peterson who first began The Message when he was teaching a friend how to pray; “The Psalms are not pretty, they’re not nice” (12:40).
Bono’s passion is of course the arts, and more specifically songwriting. But his comments highlight an important element in our own conversations with God. If we long to hear God’s voice more clearly, we must take off the masks that hide our true selves. We must stop pretending in our prayer lives – especially when we’re experiencing hard times. Honesty is not so much a sign of irreverence as it is a sign of trust. After all, we get upset with those we love the most.
I first learnt this when an uncharacteristic bout of honesty driving home one night led to a surprising answer from God (Read God Sent a Text message?). I had expected some sort of lightning bolt to fall from the heavens, but instead received a gracious reminder of God’s faithfulness. It forced me to rethink my walk with God and take a second look at the prayer lives of the saints who’d gone before me.
Think of the rawness of Job’s cries:
God, you have wasted me totally—me and my family!
You’ve shriveled me like a dried prune, showing the world that you’re against me.
My gaunt face stares back at me from the mirror, a mute witness to your treatment of me.
Your anger tears at me, your teeth rip me to shreds, your eyes burn holes in me—God, my enemy! (Job 16:7-8, MSG)
Or the weary prayers of David:
God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning. (Psalm 22:1-2, MSG)
And finally, the angry complaints of the prophet Jeremiah:
But why, why this chronic pain, this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage, a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing (Jeremiah 15:18, MSG)
Those who were closest to God demonstrate honesty in their prayers. “These are people that are vulnerable to God in a good way,” as Bono says; “God wants that truth from you – the truth will set you free” (13:30).
The question is, when we’re struggling, do we open up or do we hide behind walls of pretence? If we long to hear God’s voice speaking to us about the things that matter most, we need to allow him in. Vulnerability lies at the heart of intimacy and is key to hearing from him.
What’s your thoughts on Bono’s conversation with Peterson? We’d love to hear them below:
The most common metaphor used in the Scriptures to describe our relationship with God highlights his heart for intimacy: