"Pastor, teach us to pray." The two young couples approached Eugene Peterson in absolute earnest. They felt that their prayers were awkward, insincere, imitative, short and ineffectual.
"Why don't you take a good look at the Psalms. King David was a man who knew how to pray. He covered most of the situations which you will face. Study his approach."
Weeks passed and the Pastor heard no more, but then a somewhat apologetic knock at the door of his study. "It doesn't seem to be helping, sir. The King James language seems so archaic and foreign. We cannot get at the heart of David through it all."
'Well friends, said Peterson, 'that is unfortunate because those prayers were really quite visceral, frank, elemental and unrestrained. If David were ticked off he let God know. If desperate he hollered out for help. If joyful, the very heart-strings sang. Perhaps I might attempt a paraphrase of a couple of them to break the ice for you.'
Thus began the much celebrated paraphrase of the entire Bible which we now recognize as "The Message".
Those young couples discovered a prayer life which was spontaneous, honest, unvarnished and delightfully personal. They were coming closer to God's heart. Hearing from Him. Pleading in ways consistent with His will. Becoming angry where He was angry. Chuckling at the things that humoured Him. Delighting over His victories.
It took for them the vernacular and street-wise which Peterson had incorporated into his texts.
At a time of personal crisis, and not too long ago, I found myself examining Peterson's text and walking dark streets, yelling out at God in very direct terms about the need. He was not offended. He visited me. He settled me. He gave me fresh courage.
The answers came later...