I was able to relate intuitively to some psalms even as a child -- such as those expressing wonder at sky, mountains, and animals. But Psalm 11 is not of that type. Instead, it is of a type for which I have needed guidance in interpreting.
The initial sentence is no problem: "In the LORD I take refuge." Even as a little child, having been taught that God is love and is everywhere, I learned how I could find comfort in turning my thoughts to God. But in Psalm 11, I can easily hit a stumbling block when the psalm's prayer starts spending more time passing judgment on certain people ("the wicked" in vs. 2) than telling God what the person praying wants. It helps me to remember something pointed out to me many years ago: Namely, that such psalms are not theological doctrine about God, but are instead personal expressions of despair.
In verse 6, however, I encounter a bigger obstacle. The person praying, having just said that God "hates the lover of violence," then paints a picture of God becoming violent. Gratefully, I was recently given an insight by the Old Testament scholar Johanna Wijk-Bos in her lectures at St. Philip Presbyterian Church. She pointed out that despite there being so many rules in the Hebrew Bible, there were no rules about how to pray. Therefore, the person praying could vent all their anger at oppression, even if it expressed fantasies about God destroying those were felt to be oppressive. God was like a free psychotherapist to whom all feelings and thoughts could be shared as a way toward healing. The healing emerges in this type of angry psalm when the closing lines move into a positive turning of the matter over to God.
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In John 17:12-19, I also seem to encounter a prayer, but only in a way. This "prayer" by Jesus is like the prayer of a character in a stage-drama, in which the prayer said aloud becomes a soliloquy for the audience to hear. In Jesus's words to the Father, the author of the Book of John opens up a theological understanding of how some early Christians had come to experience the relationship between themselves, God, and the Spirit of Jesus after his death.
This soliloquy-prayer is thus a religious message. Nevertheless, it takes us deep into a place in which Christians have been able to feel God's closeness. In John's swirling mystical poetry, Jesus repeats over and over how his closeness to God allows Jesus's disciples to get closer to God by experiencing Jesus's closeness to them. Not a bad thought, even if the scene is staged.
-- Bruce Yaeger